Re: [Long Response] Teaching...

Subject: Re: [Long Response] Teaching...
From: Worthington <debral -at- FALCON -dot- CC -dot- UKANS -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 27 Apr 1995 12:57:56 -0500

Like, uh...HOWDY folks,

Hope this thread's double-tuff Nylon cause it gettin' sorta long...

Statement One --

Without Engineers and (today) Programmers, there would be no work for
Tech Writers.

Statement Two --

Without Tech Writers, there would still be plenty of work for both
Engineers and Programmers.

Go figure!

Peace and happiness to all...


------------------------------- REPLY SEPERATOR ---------------------------

> John Gear writes:
> But I would much rather have two days (or two weeks, or two months, or two
> years) to teach engineers to write than I would to have an equivalent time in
> which to teach writers to engineer. The
> students in the former group would be much further along towards your
> definition of competence than those in the latter would be towards their
> professional engineer certificates.

> John:
> I wrote the letter to which you refer, and that was hardly my point. I
> obviously don't reverse this maxim to state that you could teach me to be an
> engineer. My point was, I repeat, that many journalists can translate their
> skills into technical writing, which is precisely what I did. I don't claim
> to have any engineering knowledge whatsoever, yet I can learn very quickly (wi
> thin a week or two) enough about a complex subject to write coherently about
> in the context of a software program or introductory course matter. And this
> has nothing to do with the competence of one group over the other.

> You write further:
> It doesn't take too long before a technical writer is in a position to learn
> more about the craft
> independently, the hallmark of basic competence. After an equivalent period
> of study the average engineering student is still incapable of tying her
> metaphorical shoes.

> This is precisely my point. A technical writer can pick up technical subject
> matter and continue to grow and develop in this manner with very little
> formal training. Again, I have nothing but respect for what an engineer can
> achieve and the amount of schooling that requires, and the maxim I quoted is
> meant in no way to belittle the obvious intellectual and creative energy that
> good engineers must strive to continuously maintain.

> But...engineers often don't write well. Can you teach them to write better.
> Of course you can. Writing is not impossible to learn, but some do it much
> better than others. So you can't say that just because you can teach someone
> basic grammar, structure, spelling, etc that they will become a good writer
> in the end.

> John goes on to write:
> Perhaps instead of competing with engineers in the "my profession's harder
> than your's" contest we should take a reverse tack and compete on the basis
> of being one of the few that every person--even engineers!--should have a
> basic competence in--and set about providing that competence.

> I was certainly not claiming in quoting this maxim that technical writing is
> "harder" than engineering. Nor was I in any way trying to create a
> competition where none exists. Just because, "it's not rocket science",
> however, does not mean just anyone can walk in and do it. If that were the
> case, we would never see a poorly written or poorly organized manual. I can
> write a complete draft of a manual based on a functional spec and some screen
> dumps. Does this make me better than the engineer who is writing the program?
> Of course not, but it speaks volumes about *my* ability to write.

> I must say you read much more into a little phrase than was ever intended.
> This is not a war or even a battle. In fact, it had absolutely nothing to do
> with engineers, so much as technical writers.

> Yours,

> Ron Miller
> RSMH -at- AOL -dot- COM

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