Re: Career Choice and Degree

Subject: Re: Career Choice and Degree
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 11 Apr 1995 17:04:25 EDT

Denise Monette (dmonette -at- arl -dot- mil) writes:

>I have to disagree with William. As a technical writer, it helps to not
>be an expert in the field for which you are writing. As an expert, it is

Perhaps not an expert, but it does help to have the same background as your
average reader. If your audience consists entirely of people with degrees
in forestry, then it certainly helps if you have one (or equivalent experience)

>person in another field. A technical writer that is not an expert in the
>field might need an explanation of the subject matter, revealing that the
>document might be unclear to its audience.

Only if your audience needs similar explanations. For example, there's not
much point in providing footnote explanations for "deciduous" and "coniferous"
in a set of guidelines for forestry professionals.

In my own case, I am writing to an audience of professional programmers.
I am scraping by with a few courses in computer science and a lot of
self-study, but a degree in comp. sci sure wouldn't hurt. Like many others
in the field, I wasn't thinking of technical writing when I chose my degree
(in English, Philosophy, and Drama, in my case - none of which help
particularly in writing compiler documentation).

So: I agree with you that you don't need to be, and probably even shouldn't
be, an expert in the field you are documenting. However, getting a degree
in a field doesn't necessarily make you an expert. It may only get you the
bare minimum of knowledge necessary to even _be_ in the field.

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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