Re: Assumption of Knowledge

Subject: Re: Assumption of Knowledge
From: Nora Merhar <merhar -at- ALENA -dot- SWITCH -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Feb 1995 15:37:49 CST

Vince Putman says:

> Is the author of a document the person who provides the technical
> content OR is it the person who edits the grammar and does all the
> formatting? Many TECHWR-L posts have stated that the Technical Writer
> is the author. This attitude is no doubt coming from the enormous
> amount of effort we TechWriters put into the formatting, graphics, and
> digging for the missing info. Why then should the content person take
> credit as the author?

Vince, I'm not sure what you're talking about here. Sometimes I am a REwriter
(i.e., I put engineerese into a more palatable form for my customers) and
sometimes I am the WRITER (i.e., I am handed a disk of software and some
sketchy instructions, and I write the user guide, returning to confer with
my SME when I get stuck.

In the second case (as the writer), just because I know HOW something works
doesn't mean I programmed it. I couldn't fix a bug in it. I wouldn't take
credit for the software, and I doubt that, if I took the document into the
job interview, the person interviewing me would think I had.

In the first case (as the editor) my function is PRIMARILY editorial. So what?
Having read the material, I still have a good idea of HOW the thing works.
Again, I'm not taking credit for the software.

You seem to be saying (coreect me if I'm wrong) that the person who had the
original idea (the engineer) is the best person to document. This is simply
not true. The better you understand something, the less you may feel you need
to explain. Those of us who write user manuals know that, in many cases, NOT
understanding what you're documenting initially is a PLUS--you are all that
much more careful about writing down what users need to know, and may run into
the same problems users run into.

What I am saying is that when I have interviewed for jobs, I've always been
clear to the interviewer about what I had EDITED versus what I had WRITTEN.
No-one interviewing me has ever expected me to be a SME. They expect me to
be an effective filter between the SMEs and the users. That is the function
of a technical WRITER.

merhar -at- alena -dot- switch -dot- rockwell -dot- com

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