Certification--Two Notes

Subject: Certification--Two Notes
From: "Daniel E. Wise" <dewise -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 21:45:51 -0800

First, I have been considering sitting for the Board of Editors in the
Life Sciences (BELS) certification exam. Does anyone have a comment
about the value of the certification or what is involved in obtaining
it? Anyone have a track record with a certified person (or being a
certified person)?

Second, I have glanced at the certification thread over the past
several days. I haven't seen anything that hasn't been hashed over
repeatedly over the past 20 years or more within STC. The problem is
not so much whether there should be certification as it is HOW to
certify for WHAT. I may well be a damn good editor of mechanical
manuals, but not worth my weight in cow cookies as a writer of software
doc. How does certification apply?

My father was a journeyman lithographer and a plant superintendent. In
a Right to Work state, he insisted that all of his pressmen be
journeymen who had been certified by the Amalgamated Lithographers of
America union. When I asked him why he insisted on the ALA cert. he
told me that it did not tell him how well the guy could actually do the
work, but it did tell him that the guy had been TAUGHT how to do the
work. Without the certification, he had no clue.

I think certification in the tech comm field would have to work in
somewhat the same way. The guy who had written nothing other than a
bowling manual may have the makings of a good writer (or he may not).
The guy who submits the slick samples may have done them himself (or he
may not). But one who is certified has at least been tested and found
qualified for something by some governing body.

I worked for a guy 15 years ago who had an MA in Tech Comm from the
granddaddy of them all. He was (and is) one of the worst writers I
have ever seen. He was the Ted Knight of print journalism. He was
also a terrible supervisor who lost his job because of his lack of
skills. So what did the degree tell me? It told me he had been
exposed to the fundamentals. Experience told me he hadn't absorbed

Certification will probably not come within my lifetime for all the
reasons stated in the thread. I think certification COULD have value,
but it would be a stinker to work out.

Dan Wise
dewise -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com
38 years a TC and still learning

Since I work for myself, I have no one else to speak for.

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