Re: social science writing

Subject: Re: social science writing
From: Paula Puffer <techwrtr -at- CEI -dot- NET>
Date: Sun, 2 Jun 1996 15:37:01 -0500

Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to this thread. I had to think
long and hard before replying to this post.

>>A good rule of thumb: The less technical writers write like a social
>>scientist, the better they are communicating. There, have I offended
>>I'm not ever sure this was worth two cents.
>>Greg Taggart

>Greg, you have not offended me. We must train every new technical writer
>forget the academic style. I remember being amazed in college when I could
>get an A on a paper that said nothing in a convoluted way. In contrast,
>technical writers must convey information in the simplest way.

> Virginia

I had to wait before responding to this letter because my technical writing
career began as a social scientist (I'm a semi-reformed archaeologist and
anthropologist). I see this more as a question of writing skill and
training rather than an a question of technical writing vs. social science
writing vs. academic writing.

My first technical writing job was working with a large library that was
the basis for a bibliographic database, several abstracted bibliographies
concering indigenous knowledge and a webpage. I had the opportunity to work
with several hundred reports from a number of fields (agronomy,
horticulture, anthropology, sociology, animal science, veterinary medicine,
etc.). In these different areas, there were people who were excellent at
communicating the information they were presenting and there were people
who would ramble on forever trying to make a point. It wasn't that the
writer was a veternarian, an anthopologist, or an agronomist, it was the
writer's *skill and training* in communicating the information effectively
that made the difference.

I chose to be a technical writer and to gain skills in technical writing.
I fostered relationships that would help me improve my professional skills
and give me insight into my career choice. I had professors and
professionals within the fields of professional communication, journalism
and anthropology who took the time to give me feed back about my writing.
They encouraged me to communicate concisely and clearly. I continue to
learn from people on this list, the people I work with, and through my
membership in STC.

Students in different disciplines are often *required* to take a technical
or business writing courses beyond first year composition. They don't want
to be in a tech writing class, they have to be there. Sometimes these
students recognize the value of being able to communicate their ideas
effectively, sometimes not. How many people on this list have given a
training session on communicating more effectively to professionals in
accounting, law, or engineering firms?

Virginia hit in on the nose when she said that we have to train every new
technical writer. That training applies to every new technical writer
whether or not the writer is a social scientist, an academic professor,
computer programmer, or an engineer.

Paula Puffer
techwrtr -at- cei -dot- net

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