Re: Texts to Simulate "Keeping Up w/ Design" etc. Request.

Subject: Re: Texts to Simulate "Keeping Up w/ Design" etc. Request.
From: "Dan S. Azlin" <dazlin -at- SHORE -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 1995 00:07:54 -0500

On Mon, 23 Jan 1995, Glen Accardo wrote:

> >
> > I regret if I intrude a teacherly question here, but I want the
> > of "real" writers. I was a tech. writer for over 20 years. Now I am trying
> > teach the subject. There are really no text books that I can find that deal
> > with the realities.

> It always seemed to me that a real tech writing course would concentrate
> on what tech writers do most. Instead, most concentrate on layout,
> grammar, simple-minded editing, and other mundane stuff. Granted, all
> of these things are important, but do they help us become better
> tech writers?

The process is the most difficult thing to teach because it is, by
necessity, a moving target. It must be adaptable to the changing
requirements of a given project, just as the product being documented is
evolving. A good book that touches on the entire process of Technical
Writing is "Writing Well for the Technical Professions" by Anne Eisenberg
(ISBN 0-06-041892-3). But this is only a good "survey text" that can get
the student's feet wet.

> What about the "treasure hunting" process? That is, what about the
> process of beginning with a vague rumor and producing a manual? It
> certainly brings out the truly grim realities of tech writing. When we
> look at tech writing from this perspective, we really reassess priorities
> of writing: Is layout important? Well, not if I don't have any information
> to layout.

> All of the tech writing courses I took concentrated on information which
> stood still -- "go to the library and research xxx and write about it."
> In interviewing tech writers recently, I've noticed that English majors
> believe the world really works that way. Journalism majors seem to know
> more about digging and piecing things together and playing one source
> off another to get down to the real truth.

If I were teaching a Technical Writing course for serious students, I
would give them the assignment to go find an engineering student
developing a project for his/her class and document it as though it was
the real world and the company was betting the farm on the results. Of,
course this means that the two students would be forced to work
together... perhaps to their mutual benefit if the engineering student's
instructor would give some credit to having the project well documented.

Dan Azlin ** Word Engineers, Technical Writing & Publishing **
dazlin -at- shore -dot- net

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