Re: technical background

Subject: Re: technical background
From: "<Pam Owen>" <powen -at- MAIL2 -dot- LMI -dot- ORG>
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 1995 14:24:00 EST

Steven Jong questions the ability of tech writers to write about
subjects with which they are unfamiliar, saying that that techies have
a better shot at it. He says the tech writer who is new to the subject
is likely to say something like the following:
>The DataWhiz system includes an advanced spritzing feature that
enables you to spritz sprockets.
>Select the feature from the Main Menu.

Speaking as a totally unbiased (;-}) freelance writer/editor, I've
worked with innumerable techies from innumerable companies. My
experience is that, as an editor, I'm likely to get something from a
techie that reads as follows (using Steven's example):

"DataWhiz's [jargon familiar only to the techie and his buddies here]
interfaces the [more jargon familiar only to the techie and his
buddies here] of another [yet more jargon here] which [restrictive or
nonrestrictive - not even the writer knows for sure; and how about
those dangling modifiers?] has a really fast 28,800 bps
telecommunications related new user defined spritzing feature [unit
modifiers, anyone? and we won't talk about the department of
redundancy department; and then there's the punctuation issue] . . . "

And of course, up to this point none of the terms used have been
defined, and this description's probably in the wrong place in the
document - or, even more probably, several wrong places in the
document. And what this writer calls a "spritzing feature" is probalby
called something else by group developing another part of the system.
It's amazing that people who can design a complex technical system
often can't organize their thoughts worth beans to document it. You
editors know what I'm talking about.

Sorry, Steven, knowing the technology is worthless if you can't
describe it clearly. Give me a reasonably intelligent, skilled
technical writer who has access to supportive technical experts any

Pam Owen
Nighthawk Communications
Reston, VA
Nighthawk1 -at- aol -dot- com, or powen -at- lmi -dot- org

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