Learning C code as a technical writer

Subject: Learning C code as a technical writer
From: Diane Peters <dj -at- IBAPAH -dot- RAXCO -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Nov 1995 13:56:06 -0700

After reading several responses that reveal such resistance to learning
C code (or any programming language), I feel compelled to share the

Many technical writing jobs require this skill for good reason. Have
any of you ever heard of an API? I'm not sure of the translation of
this acronym, but I believe it stands for Application Programming
Interface. The "interface" in this case is the document, which is a
result of the efforts of a technical writer, possessing skills in both
writing and reading code.

Most APIs are for internal use only, and the "user" are programmers,
who rely on this documentation to understand existing programs, train
new programers, provide a programming standard, and for a history of
what has been done before. Other users of APIs include: QA departments
to write testing scripts and technical support organizations for an
indept understanding of products they must support.

There are entire technical writing departments of several technical
companies, that I know of, whose only function is to read programming
code of software products and produce API documents.

So, there is a very practical reason for a technical writer to gain
comprehension of programming languages (the most common of which is now
C and C++). As for a resistance to learning a new skill, I am somewhat
dumb-founded. Knowledge and experience are two things no one (and
nothing) can take from you. Besides, you never know what doors this
could open for you in the future. Also, there is a certain amount of
independence that comes with every new skill.

I must agree, in closing, that if your employer expects you to actually
program products that it intends to sell, then they are asking you to
do someone else's job. To learn to program for products or equipment
that you use to do your own (writing) job, I really think the request
is reasonable. That's all I have to say on the subject.

[Phew! I thought she'd never shut up! ;) ]

Diane J. Peters
Technical Writer
AXENT Technologies

The road to enlightenment is long and difficult...
So, bring snacks and a magazine.

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