Re: TW Classifications

Subject: Re: TW Classifications
From: gina jerome <gina -at- ROARK -dot- ITG -dot- TI -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 1995 16:49:09 -0500

Sue Stewart wrote:

> Here's the heart of the problem: I do not believe you understand what most
> people mean by "professional development." ...

Guy Oliver replied:

>My apologies. I used the term "professional development" in a very
>narrow context -- a person's ability to research technical information,
>assimilate that information, and clearly communicate it through some
>medium such as a a technical manual.

>When people take a professional attitude to their work, they most
>certainly *do* continue to develop new skills and use their current
>skills more efficiently. This very dialog contributes to my
>professional development because I am learning what other experienced
>writers like you think about how we learn (or have learned) to do the
>core job of technical writing. I believe that this information, and a
>lot of other information about technical writers and our craft, could
>be very useful to to business, technical, and marketing managers.

Guy makes an excellent point. I can also see that, unlike most of us
who are usually so much under the gun we fail to look at the whole
of what we are accomplishing and it's impact, he appears to have
given a great deal of thought into the "profession" of technical
writing and what can be done to elevate it to the level of recognition
it deserves. Too often the analogy has been made that tech writers
are to engineers what nurses are to doctors. While many of us could
rattle off several famous doctors, outside of Florence Nightengale,
there's not many nurse I personally can name. Adn the same might be
said of engineers vs. tech writers as was seen in the thread discussing
impactful or famous manuals.

It's threads like the one Guy started that allow us to take a
broader look at what is sometimes myopic thinking, and
reflect on how it is that we as writers can receive not accolades
(as one person remarked) but a level of respect of position and of
understanding of our value to the marketplace and to the companies
from whom we collect a paycheck. We'll only get paid what the market
will bear; however, by elevating our position, elevates the value
as well. And that determining where we are (perhaps by establishing
categories), may be a good place to access our present value.

Also, I'm certain that few companies honestly have a grasp of what
tech writers do. Mostly we're treated like overpaid (though generally
overworked) secretaries who simply regurgitate information given to
us by the engineering team. If we were to find a way to classify
ourselves, as a starting point, then perhaps our place as team members
on development staffs would also have a greater significance.

It's been my experience that companies will hire a writer in the
throes of a deadline, months into development and expect the writer
to very quickly learn the product and catch up to the team. If HR
and management folks had a clearer understanding of the role of a
technical writer, then a writer would become an integral part of
the team and would participate in the design (including the initial
stages), development, and implementation. That would include the
documentation process, production, and user feasibility studies so
that the finished projects (the product and the accompanying docs)
would match each other. In this way, the writer would provide a
great benefit for the team that could percieve as a help to them
and not just as something that needs to get done so the customer
can understand how the product works. It may also help project
managers to realize the importance of documentation and that it
needs to be an important benchmark of every design team.

While some companies actually accomplish this (and kudos to those
of you that do) many do not, and therefore are not using tech writers
to their highest capability. And how will they know what we are capable
of unless we, as writers, set out to educate them about our knowledge,
skills, background, and whatever else might be pertinent to their
enlightenment? To do so, we've got to start somewhere, and I thought
Guy made a honest, if somewhat awkward, first start.

Guy further writes:

> I believe most of the information that has been posted about serif
> fonts has been available for at least 10 years. Nobody is ever going
> to be able to answer the question: "is a P.C. better than a Mac'?"
> There is no definitive answer to the question of which particular mix
> of education and experience produces a good technical writer. Erotic
> asphyxiation is interesting, and I enjoyed the humor, but it is quite
> unrelated to the subject of technical writing.

> It may be that many of the subscribers find the topic I chose as my
> first posting to be unintersting; but there was an invitation to post
> an opinion about the subject (Paul Sholar to Steven J. Owens -
> 4/11/95). I again offer my apologies if this thread is uninteresting
> to most subscribers.

In part, I agree. Much of what gets posted is simple banter. However,
that does not degrade it's usefulness. It's just that when a more
sophisticated topic is broached, I believe that it should be given
the reverence and recognition it deserves. Those not wanting to
participate in that thread, can certainly bow out. But it does give
those of us, who want to, a forum in which to express more discerning

Gina Maria Jerome
gina -at- roark -dot- itg -dot- ti -dot- com

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