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Thank you, this message is much more reasonably stated than the last.
I agree that there are many fine technical writers who practise the
profession without the benefit of a degree or certification. I also agree
that there are practising technical writers whose abilities fall below the
minimum standard of writing, but these substandard writers are few and far
between, and don't last very long in the profession. To label the majority
of technicians-turned-writers as incompetent is untrue and unfair.
The majority of technical writers that I've worked with entered the
field from the technical trades and seem to have a much better grasp of what
information is required in technical manuals and how it should be presented.
Academically trained writers start off with the handicap of not having that
knowledge and far too many of the ones that I have worked with have resorted
to "guessing" when dealing with something they don't understand, rather than
asking someone for help.
Certification and formal qualifications (in the form of degrees) will
become the minimum standards for entrants into this profession, that much is
inevitable, and it will be driven by the market place, not by the
professional societies that have grown up around this profession.The pursuit
of a certificate program will fail if its aim is to "weed out" those that
someone has decided are undesireable in this profession. A certificate
program will only serve this profession if its purpose is to educate and
prepare people to become good technical writers. Anything else will fall
short of the mark.
From: Scott, Vester
To: paul.cheverie; Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Vester's Certification
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 1995 6:03PM
One doesn't necessarily need a degree to be a fine tech writer. There are
many fine tech writers out there who have never taken a post-high school
course in writing; they simply learned the writing ropes very well in high
school English and maintained a consuming respect and thirst for the ability
to communicate in standard language with their readers. Others go on to
college. In no way does it follow that either of these groups cannot also
understand technical stuff just as well. In fact, I have direct, ongoing
daily evidence that the reverse is overwhelmingly true. On the other hand,
I see depressingly few technicians-turned-writers who make the grade (for
whatever reason) as excellent writers.
Back to my point: 1) There are practicing tech writers who do not meet the
minimum standards of acceptable writing ability. 2) A good certification
program would either weed them out or motivate them to acquire the missing
skills. Either is fine with me.
By the way, I drifted into tech writing in 1968 after 11 years as a hardware
engineering developer -- and with a high school education. I was a so-so
writer, then, and not nearly as good as I thought I was. Now I'm a much
better and far humbler writer who tries to improve every day.
So. We both seem to have a sore spot, Paul. I'd rather have you agree with
me. But if you don't, too bad.
To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: Vester's Certification
Date: Wednesday, July 12, 1995 12:23PM
//I love it.
//Further to that: in my experience, many (but certainly not all) Technical
//"writers" who are not degreed in the profession, and/or who simply drifted
//into it from some other profession, are lousy writers who do not
//the basic precepts of grammer, syntax, punctuation, style . . .you name
//They embarrass the profession and the companies they work for and take up
//job slots for which qualified professionals are hungry and deserving. I'm
//for certification, if for no other reason than to keep the bar raised high
//enough to filter these rascals out. There, I've said it and I feel much
Well Vester, you said a mouthful, and a pretty vile one at that.
I am one of those "writers" who simply drifted into technical writing from
some other profession. I have found through experience that it is far easier
to train a good technician to be a good technical writer (provided of
course, the basic language skills are present) than it is to teach someone
who has an academic background the technical knowledge required to be a
decent technical writer. I have yet to have the opportunity to work with
someone who has a degree in technical writing and while I applaud the
concept, I certainly hope that the majority of "degreed professionals" in
this field don't suffer from the same intellectual flatulance that you seem
to be afflicted with.
People who hold the elitist attitude you do tend to place more importance
on their wallpaper than they do on their ability to understand the
technologies they are required to write about. No one who has the need to
use the manuals that we produce gives a damn about your degrees or the
quality of your prose - they are interested in the information in the
manual. Your arrogance towards the qualifications of your collegues
embarrasses me. I thank god I don't suffer the misfortune of having to work