Re: Technical Writer Classifications

Subject: Re: Technical Writer Classifications
From: Garret Romaine <GRomaine -at- MSMAIL -dot- RADISYS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 08:43:00 PDT

>In response to Paul Sholer's post, Guy Oliver wrote the following:

<snip, snip>

> I believe that our profession is still very immature, and I am
> beginning to actively seek ways in which we can elevate the perception
>of Technical Writing in the business community from a mere vocation to
> a true profession.

>Guy Oliver

Good point, Guy. I've also been wrestling with the technical writing craft
as an immature
profession. One of the ramifications is that we lack what I call a "Tech
Writers Hall of Fame" as a reference point. Not that there aren't great tech
writers out there -- far from it. But they tend to toil in anonymity. Only
by association with STC for many years would you be in a position to even
vote on, say, the ten best technical writers ever. Conversely, everyone can
probably nominate their "ten worst" documents.

I once attended one of Dr. Conrad Gottredson's seminars where he told an
anecdote about an engineer writing a manual. The engineer was shocked to
discover that Dr. Gottredson's first edits on the engineer's draft hacked
out substantial amounts of prose that the engineer wanted in. "You've taken
'me' out of the manual," the engineer protested. "I never wanted 'you' in
there in the first place," was the reply. The implication is that we are
paid to be anonymous, and the writing style that often works best is devoid
of personality...

The recent thread about "the best technical manual you ever read" is, I
believe, a search for maturity artifacts. If there are some, and they can be
judged, debated, and understood, we all benefit. I guess the bottom line is
that this is a pretty odd profession. Great engineers win Nobel prizes.
Great creative writers win Pulitzers. Great tech writers? They become
contractors, don't they?

Garret Romaine
RadiSys Corp.
Beaverton, Oregon
gromaine -at- radisys -dot- com


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