The Right Stuff -Reply

Subject: The Right Stuff -Reply
From: Amy Brown <AMYB -at- IPRAX -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 1996 14:49:11 -0500

Michael, my reactions to your post:

<Question: Can the previously mentioned function in a world of the
<Technical Writer as long as he/she has the correct training? Is the
<creative individual facing self-destruction?
<A nervous breakdown? Perhaps total humiliation?

I think you'll find that your creativity will be hemmed in in some ways, at
least self-expression through writing. A tech writer has to write clearly
and concisely to get through to the user. Which means, no obscure
words, no alternative syntax, nothing like that: instructions must be
SIMPLE. However, creativity does come into play when you're trying to
figure out which way of delivering information is best: documentation?
Online help? A combination of the two? Web help? And you _can_
have a lot of flexibility on the way your documents will look depending on
how strict a particular company's style guide is.

All in all, if you're thinking about doing some tech writing, you should take
some courses or at least read a few good books (I recommend
Anderson's "Technical Writing: A Reader-Centered Approach" and
Edmond Weiss's "Writing Usable User Documentation" to start with).

<I have spoken to a Technical Writer some months ago, and sensed that
<one should be " mechanically inclined " in some way. Would the rest of
<you agree?

If "mechanically inclined" can be read as "logical and analytical in thought
process," yes, you do have to be mechanically inclined. If "mechanically
inclined" means you can do things such as configure your computer or
fix your plumbing without the need for instructions or assistance, nope,
you don't have to be mechanically inclined.

However, you must have a thorough knowledge of the workings of
whatever you're documenting. If this means bugging an engineer for an
explanation, you have to do it. Pick brains, pick, pick, pick. If they picked
_our_ brains for documentation tips and actually listened, we'd be out of
a job. (Good thing a lot of engineers think they know everything.)

Amy
amyb -at- iprax -dot- com

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