Re: Certification/Degrees

Subject: Re: Certification/Degrees
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 15:02:00 EST

At 10:28 AM 12/11/96 -0600, you wrote:
> I am an avid list lurker, but generally don't get into the fray. The
> recent comments about turning a tech writing job over to *a secretary*
> (said with an obvious sneer) finally prompted me to write you. This
> whole attitude smacks of eliteism. Just as there are degreed
> technical writers who can't write their way out of a wet paper bag,
> there are also mere secretaries who can and do.

<Excellent points about talent overcoming stupidity reluctantly snipped>

I can't speak for my colleagues, but my own incipient sneer arises because
of my experience with employers who assign complex tech doc tasks to the
halt, the lame, and the blind, so long as any of them can type. Your own
background, as you mentioned in the snipped portion, included such training
as journalism and statistics, both excellent training grounds for tech doc.
But please realize that you were an unusual temp, because most temps are (or
at least were some years ago) basically typists. When such people are given
the job and title of "technical writer" I think the entire bunch of us are
ground down just a grain or two further.

To be fair, of course, many employers don't turn to typists for their
writing chores out of caprice or malice, but out of ignorance. Employers are
often left with the trying task of separating literate wheat from bumpkin
chaff without knowing what standards to apply. In short, they don't know
what we do, they don't know how to find us, and they don't know quality help
when it shows up.

Part of this is our fault, to be frank. We don't have a profession, because
a profession implies a commonly-accepted set of standards that must be met
before the title can be truthfully applied. In some lines of work, you can
take on a title that an employer hands out, but a secondary, external group
confers another set of initials after your name that tells the world that
you're not just occupying a chair; you've been tested and found to be
sufficiently learned to qualify for an honored spot in the upper tier. Such
a program would have allowed you to gain the recognition you needed and
perhaps drastically shorten your acceptance time.

It's still my firm belief that until we in the field finally begin to define
what we do and hold ourselves to an objective standard, we won't have a
profession. Instead, we'll continue to have everything from stellar lights
to dim bulbs, all equally laying claim to the same job title and muddling
our public perception. And we'll bequeath this sad situation onto the next
generation, as well.

Tim Altom
Vice President, Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice) 317.899.5987 (fax)
FrameMaker support ForeHelp support
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