Re: Student Tech Writer being edited to death...Fact of life?

Subject: Re: Student Tech Writer being edited to death...Fact of life?
From: Betsy Maaks <bmaaks -at- FRAME -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 31 Jul 1995 11:08:42 CDT

At 21:15 7/29/95 GMT, you wrote:


>My main problem is I don't know how to express myself
>politely and tell this person what I feel about his constant
>pestering. It has become personal, I work at home. Is there
>not a recipe for harmonious relations, or is this what could
>be termed: "welcome to the real world!"

I believe that the real world of the tech writer is this:

(1) our skills are writing clearly, sequentially, logically, technically
accurately, to a given audience.
(2) we have very good interviewing and researching skills which we use to
gather necessary information for the topic
(3) we work well with all types of people

The last one is the hardest, because a number of egotistical people think
they have all the skills needed to write well. As tech writers, we must
convince them that:

(1) we have the above skills, and received jobs, promotions, recognition,
etc. from others who acknowledge these skills in us.
(2) we don't claim to be knowledgeable in all fields of technical expertise;
we leave that to guys this this "person" (I sometimes tell them, "you be the
expert in content, I'll be the expert is writing and audience analysis")
(3) sometimes some audience analysis (factual information) that we have
researched helps "these people" to accept that this is an area that WE know
better and that this is OUR job
(4) to repeat and clarify part of #2 above, SMEs are the content experts and
WE are the writing experts. I have told SME/reviewers that they can make
corrections to the content, but not to the writing. Like if they change
active voice to passive voice (for no clarity of content, "jus' coz"), I
won't agree to the change.

Other suggestions:
Give this person a draft, and ask him/her to return it to you in its
entirety. Don't accept bits and pieces. Let him/her know that when he/she
has finished with reviewing/editing, you will give him/her another draft of
the whole thing. Pestering is counter-productive. Tell him/her this politely.
If you are approaching a deadline, cut off the revisions to one more round,
content only. Get another reviewer to check the language; someone typical of
the intended audience. Let the "person" know and agree (kind of a third
person arbitrator).

If all else fails, decide "not to," and back out. Politely hand it back to
the "person" and tell him/her that it has been a pleasure working with
him/her, but it is apparent that he/she doesn't need a person of your
talents, but rather a secretary or a clerical helper. Tell him/her politely
that you are not one of these. If you were charging for your services, give
him/her the final bill. Don't back out of asking to be paid--they won't
remember the experience if it was free.

I am a member of the
>STC and it must be very important to learn how to deal with
>situations that may sometimes seem difficult.

I'm a member of STC too. It's a very good organization. I hope you change
your future status from "student member" to "member" when you graduate.

Betsy Maaks
The opinions expressed here are strickly my own.

Betsy Maaks + Frame Technology Corp.
312-266-3208 + Advanced Products
bmaaks -at- frame -dot- com + 441 W. Huron Street
+ Chicago, IL 60610


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