Re: TW classifications

Subject: Re: TW classifications
From: Guy Oliver <guy -at- DEV -dot- TIVOLI -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 13 Apr 1995 13:29:30 CDT

From Sue Stewart:

> >>Writers with less than three years experience seem to spend most of
> their time learning to collect information, conduct interviews, and
> communicating thier findings on paper. In other words, they are
> learning the craft of Technical Writing.<<

> Unless, of course, they have *journalism degrees*, or techwriting degrees
> based in the *school of journalism* rather than the English department, in
> which case they are TAUGHT these skills, along with how to get to work and
> get the job done.

The only journalism major with whom I have worked already had 7 or 8
years experience when I met her, and so I am curious: In your
experience, are such new college graduates able to perform these kinds of
tasks as efficiently as those who have a few years experience doing

I ask because Technical Writing is a true craft; it requires a certain
amount of applied art. Consequently, I think that the best way to
learn how to interpret and adequately document the technical
information that you discover in an interview, is to actually do it
every day. I suspect that the art of drawing information from
engineers during an interview is also an art that is difficult to
teach in a classroom.

Let me also say that I don't mean to diminish the importance of
education, which I personally believe is very important.

> Guy Oliver has some interesting and not inappropriate ideas on the skill
> levels of technical writing; however, tying the levels to years of experience
> is often inappropriate. I have known TW with only a few years of experience
> who were as skillful and multi-faceted as the "ten-year" writer Guy defines.
> I've also known some folks with 15 years or more experience who are still
> beginners.

I agree. I did not intend to place too much emphasis on a certain number
of years of experience. My purpose was to describe my observations
about the development of a technical writer from novice to expert, and
how the different skill levels can best be described. Noting the
exception is important, but I think it is also useful to describe the

> >>I haven't had the privilege of working with any writers that have much
> more than ten years experience.<<

> Reading this statement, I thought: Boy, do I feel OLD.

Don't. My lack of exposure is my deficiency not yours. :^)

> >> I suspect, however, that the professional growth
> of a technical writer significantly diminishes after 10 years of
> experience.<<

> No, darlin', you keep growing or you turn into petrified wood. You look for
> new challenges and new ways to do things, and you try to get better. If you
> stop learning, your brain dies and you become one of those lumps of
> protoplasm waiting for retirement. In fact, because of more background, you
> get *better* at finding opportunities for professional development. You know
> how to focus your development rather than being overwhelmed by the many
> subjects available.

> sue stewart
> suepstewrt -at- aol -dot- com

That's a great philosophy, but be more specific. What kinds of things
that were related to technical writing did you find you could do (or do
better) after 15 years that were difficult or impossible after only 10


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