Re: Is the Customer Always Right?

Subject: Re: Is the Customer Always Right?
From: "John M. Gear" <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 10:05:00 PST

At 11:20 PM 1/30/95 +1100, Geoffrey Marnell wrote:
>When it comes to matters of design, style and language, is the
>customer/client always right?

Of course not. If the customer were always right then the customer
is wasting lots of money using professional technical communicators.

Or is this an abandonment of the
>professionalism that technical writers rightfully assume?
Yes, precisely. I underscored your "rightfully" to suggest that
this is a conditional right, predicated on acting like a professional rather
than a hired pair of hands. With hired hands, the customer is always right.
With a professional, the customer pays for the expertise and results, not
the method. The customer may *not* specify choices counter to the
professional's judgement (which may or may not be codified). The
homebuilder may *not* tell the professional electrician which gauge wiring
to use.

Every profession wrestles with this issue as it becomes a recognized
profession. As the laypersons are left behind, often without their
knowledge, the professional practitioners have a harder and harder time (or
it takes longer and longer) explaining the reasons for the professionals'

Technical communications has many of the characteristics of a
profession (except, most seriously, barriers to entry) and so this issue
will never go away, especially as sophisticated computer-tools become more
widely available and laypersons are able to produce what, at least
superficially, resembles what a professional technical communicator produces.

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