Re: Assumption of Knowledge

Subject: Re: Assumption of Knowledge
From: "You can't get there from here; you have to go somewhere else first." <angela -at- VENUS -dot- SMARTSTAR -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Feb 1995 09:52:33 -0800

Vince Putman asks:

> 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?

Where I work, I am expected to provide the technical content, test it,
edit the grammar, and format it. The only reliable content I am provided is
the software itself. I'm also given software specifications (written by
developers for developers) that state the intended functionality of the product
and how to code it, but these are often unreliable. I claim authorship, because
I write everything from scratch, and by the time I write it, I have learned it
and know it.

> Many writing samples offered by applicants for
> Technical Writer positions, are said to be written by them. If this
> is true, then it infers that the original writing was also done by
> them. If not true then the Technical Writer applicant has assumed
> knowledge, i.e. experience they can not offer. The crux of the matter
> is the assumption of knowledge -- in other words its pretending to
> know something when you do not.

What I write is what the software does and how to use it. I know what it does
and how to use it, and therefore I do not believe I am claiming any knowledge
I do not have by claiming authorship. However, I do see where there can be
a lot of gray areas here. I would be very hesitant to claim sole authorship
on something if I did not write it from scratch--if I got a draft of the
original info and rewrote it. Whether I claimed partial authorship or not
would depend on how much rewriting I did. In any event, I would try to be
up front about exactly what my role was in the project if I used that piece
as a writing sample in an interview.

Angela Howard
angela -at- smartstar -dot- com

*MHOs, not my employer's*


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