Re: What makes a good Tech Writer

Subject: Re: What makes a good Tech Writer
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 3 Sep 1996 10:03:11 -0500


>Thanks Michael for good inspiration!

>Of cause, there is something in it, but it is also a dangerous
>misunderstanding that this is the whole truth.

>First of all - a minor point: in fact, there ARE other languages in
>the World than English! A lot of technical documentation is
>originally written in and translated to/from German, Japanese,
>French, Italian, Danish, Korean, etc., etc., etc., ...

>This means that the "English skills" axis should rather be "Language
>skills".

>But a lot worse: there is one more axis, which is probably the most
>important one, and at least more important than the "Technical ..."
>axis. In fact, _too much_ technical knowledge to the subject is often
>a disadvantage, because then you can't see the users problems. Please
>note before flaming, that I don't hate technicians, I _am_ one
>(M.Sc. in electronic engineering), and I don't hate myself.

>The third axis is "Pedagogy".

>So the map should rather look like this (view in monospace font):

> (Excellent Tech Writer)
> . . . . . . . . . . . . x . . . . .
> .. ..
> . . . .
> . . . .
> . . . .
> Pedagogy . . . .
> Skills . . . .
> (Good)| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> | . . .
> | . . .
> | . . .
> | /Language skills. . . . . ... . . .
> | /(good) . .
> | / . .
> | / . .
> | / . .
> | / (Poor Tech Writer) . .
> (Poor)|/_________________________________.
> (Poor) (Good)
> Technical Knowledge/Skills

>That's why I fight for pedagogy in technical writing on my "Website
>for user friendly manuals" and in my book.

>Greetings from Denmark

Point taken on the language skills rather than English skills. I've now
modified the Wing Technical Writer matrix. I originally included only
an X and a Y axis because the point to which I was addressing contrasted
language skills and technical knowledge (and because I didn't think that
I could make an effective 3-d ASCII diagram).

However, thanks for the ASCII art showing 3-d. I want to make a
correction, though. It's minor. The x denoting the excellent Tech
Writer is to the left of the ideal position (the upper right corner).
The indicates that the technical knowledge/skills do not have the same
weight as the pedagogy and language skills.

The argument made for "too much" technical knowledge being a hindrance
can also be applied to "too much" skill in language. That is, the
Technical Writer views their writing too much as an artistic piece
rather than a conduit for communication. Therefore, the complete
information that needs to reach the user becomes secondary to the
Writer's sense of art. My matrix assumes that development along each
axis only improves the Technical Writer. Therefore, there is no apex to
an area of skills. Whether the knowledge/skills/qualities a Writer
develops are over-and-above what is necessary for the information at
hand is tempered by the Writer's discernment as to what information to
present at what level. Discernment of information may be a writing
skill that falls on yet another axis.

>My Z axis would be professional/personal qualities such as initiative,
>innovation, ability to close gaps in information, persistence, and so forth.
>This would form a cube in which a poor writer would be at the lower left
>(poor language (or whatever language), poor technical knowledge, and poor
>personal skills) to the upper right (good language, good technical knowledge,
>and good personal skills). Therefore, I borrowed your art, moved the
>Excellent Tech Writer location to the upper-right corner, and substituted my
>Z - axis (I have a hard enough time with 3-d. Forget about placing a 4th
>axis, if possible, in the diagram).

>So the map should rather look like this (view in monospace font):


> (Excellent Tech Writer)
> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .x
> .. ..
> . . . .
> . . . .
> . . . .
> Personal . . . .
> Skills . . . .
> (Good)| . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
> | . . .
> | . . .
> | . . .
> | /Language skills. . . . . ... . . .
> | /(good) . .
> | / . .
> | / . .
> | / . .
> | / (Poor Tech Writer) . .
> (Poor)|/_________________________________.
> (Poor) (Good)
> Technical Knowledge/Skills


Mike Wing


_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/
_/
_/ Michael Wing
_/ Principal Technical Writer
_/ Infrastructure Technical Information Development
_/ Intergraph Corporation
_/ Huntsville, Alabama
_/ (205) 730-7250
_/ mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com
_/

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