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Subject:Interest and Learning --> Higher Salaries From:Michael Andrew Uhl <uhl -at- VISLAB -dot- EPA -dot- GOV> Date:Fri, 15 Mar 1996 11:22:26 -0800
I recently informed a fellow STC chapter leader that I am
attempting to co-author a paper with a colleague at IBM for
the Fall issue of the STC Technical Communication journal.
They asked me, "Why, on top of two jobs, the chapter newsletter,
and a family, would you want to take on such a paper?" I told
them that I love writing and don't get to do much of it in my
job. THAT'S RIGHT FOLKS, MY TITLE IS "LEAD TECHNICAL WRITER"
AND I GET PAID A VERY GOOD SALARY; BUT I DON'T DO MUCH WRITING.
I told this fellow STC chapter leader that I'm more of a
technologist: I study how to apply communication tools to the
need for communication between us and our customers and among the
The modern technical communicator is much less a writer and much
more a consultant specializing in the application of technology
to communication needs and challenges.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. One reason I feel this way, is
that this need for the communication technologist has boosted our
worth and our salaries. Now, don't misunderstand me: I'm not saying
that a technologist is worth more than a good writer. But the
people who write the checks often feel like they're getting more
for their money if the good-to-excellent writer can also learn and
adapt the new technologies.
As a modern technical communicator who loves to write, I must seek
to satisfy that passion on my own initiative. My employer encourages
me only to make the client happy, and that rarely involves quality
writing. "Press this key." and "Select xyz option." don't qualify,
in my thinking, as challenging writing. As these imperative statements
fit into the bigger scheme of things, I see technical *communication*,
but the writing itself leaves something to be desired.
Bill Sullivan wrote:
> Kent Newton opines: If you took the time to learn all these new
> areas, Win, when would you have time to write? I see this as the
> insidious effect of the mad race to know the latest technology: we're
> so busy learning the technology that we have less time to research and
> document the product or service we were hired to document. Does
> anyone else see this trend as time-consuming as I do, or am I just an
> I say: Time-consuming the new software (any new software) is. That
> goes for anything having to do with web pages, too. Boring, even.
> Congested. In Word 6.0, they've got so many icons and other garbage
> stuffed in there, there's hardly room for your text. What's a
> serious writer to do? More and more, we tech writers are judged not
> by our ability to write clearly or to say what needs to be said and
> nothing more, but by what we know about expensive tools. And how
> much do these tools actually help our work? How much do they hinder
> it? Sometimes I wish I had the brain of a time-study expert so I
> could figure that out. Hell, sometimes I'd even settle for just a
> Well, Kent, best I can offer you is: Eye on the ball, kid. Think
> Tony Gwynn (one of my Padres). And if you can't stand the heat, try
> cold turkey.
> Bill Sullivan
> bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com
> San Diego, California
Michael Andrew Uhl, Lead Technical Writer (uhl -at- vislab -dot- epa -dot- gov)
Lockheed Martin, Primary Support Contractor to US EPA
Scientific Visualization Center
National Environmental Supercomputing Center (NESC)
U.S. EPA Environmental Research Center
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina