Re: Knowing prog. lang. +s to a TW's $?

Subject: Re: Knowing prog. lang. +s to a TW's $?
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 9 Jan 1997 09:59:48 -0800

David Castro asked:
> Does knowing a programming language add to a technical writer's value?

In my 30-some years of tech writing, I have usually not found that
knowing a specific programming language actually helps you do a better
job of researching and writing. Where it DOES help is getting you past
the qualification interview.

The reasoning seems to work this way: If you know C++ (or whatever),
you will then understand what the programmers are trying to do when you
see their [screens|examples/|interface suggestions|whatever]. However,
I have found that if you understand one programming language, or a
pseudo-language, such as the macro language and functions in Excel, you
understand most of what you need to decipher most programmer-written

Where it actually helps to understand the language is where you are
writing directly from a program listing, with little or no programmer
intervention, or where you are writing specifically for fairly technical
programmers. This might be where you were writing an API manual, or
something equally technical.

I know about a dozen programming languages, and have rarely had to use
any of them, despite lots of projects where knowing a specific language
was a specific qualification.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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