Re: $/Word coming to TWing?

Subject: Re: $/Word coming to TWing?
From: merrill -at- HYPERION -dot- PDIAL -dot- INTERPATH -dot- NET
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 1996 16:05:15 GMT

> "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com> writes:
> At 1:47 AM 1/10/96, Geoff Hart forwarded an anonymous post:

> > Tech Writing paid by the word. Yeeeehaaaa!
> >

> > Have any of y'all EVER come across such a billing method in
> > tech writing?

> Never in all my time as a tech writer! Never! Ever!

> One of the primary rules of *good* technical writing is "eliminate
> needless words". Strunk (of "and White" fame) wrote that in 1920

> I know! How'bout if you charge so much per word for the first
> few drafts, then so much more for each word *eliminated* in the
> final draft! Now, that would be reward for talent! ;-)

There is a much simpler approach that avoids many of the problems
associated with the "pay by word" approach. Simply charge by the
character rather than by the word. This at the very least eliminates
the incentive to use more words, to use smaller words in favor of
larger ones that express the same sense, etc. But wait! Some thorny
problems arise. Is it ethical under these circumstances to charge for
whitespace characters? Should you charge for vertical whitespace
at the same rate that you charge for horizontal whitespace? And what
if you are doing this in SGML where (theoretically) the formatting
characteristics are not even part of the document? Do you charge
for the characters in tags as well as in text? In fact, this brings up an
interesting issue concerning the use of SGML or HTML versus other
techniques (such as Word, FrameMaker, etc.). If you charge by the
word and SGML/HTML tags count as words, can you count
formatting codes in MIF (or RTF, or other prepresentations such as
are used by Word or Wordperfect) as words as well -- and hence
charge for them? Or does this argue that you can *not* charge
for tags?

This technical writing stuff is much more difficult than I had thought.
(I am reminded of the scene in _Amadeus_ wherein the king tells
Mozart that there are "too many notes" in the opera.)
Gary Merrill

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