Re: Technical writing vs. engineering

Subject: Re: Technical writing vs. engineering
From: Bill Burns <WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 15:58:02 MDT

Chateau Wright said:

>> To me, technical writing is basically researching and reporting
information in a specific writing style. One doesn't even need
a class, there are books that can teach a person to become a
"technical writer".

I don't quite think learning technical writing can be reduced to such a simple
process as reading a couple of books--for the most part because technical
writing is simply one part of a process that we develop all of our lives.
Verbal abilities and communication skills are not simply taught in a couple of
three-credit courses. These skills have to be developed over many years. I
think the same can go for engineering or scientific fields. Neither process is
simple, and neither skill, in my opinion, demands greater intellectual
abilities. They require DIFFERENT intellectual abilities. Some people just
happened to be endowed with more than a single intellectual ability. It's not
wholly unlikely that a writer can have an aptitude for programming, engineering,
or physics. (Thomas Pynchon is a prime example of this.) Likewise, it's not
impossible for scientists to have a knack for writing. (Ever read _Medusa and
the Snail_ or _The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat_?)

I think the real problem here is with the stereotypes we try to apply to
different professional categories. I know many writers who are very logical
and empirical in their approaches. I've also met quite a few engineers that
seem to have a much less linear-thinking side to their personalities. People
are not bits (ones or zeros): they're megabytes. When we try to peg them into
specific holes, we also tend to scrape off all of the interesting corners that
make them unlike other personal geometries.

Sorry for mixing my metaphors. It's been a rough month.

Bill Burns *
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * LIBERTY, n. One of Imagination's most
Micron Technology, Inc. * precious possessions.
Boise, ID *
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM * Ambrose Bierce


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