Re: A Technical Writer by Any Other Name

Subject: Re: A Technical Writer by Any Other Name
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 1997 14:12:42 PST

I've gained the impression that big fluffy titles are often used to
mask low status. In particular, "Specialist" is often used to
mean "technician" or "someone whose last title was 'secretary.'"
Thus, a title like "Technical Documentation Specialist" implies
"word processor" or "secretary to the writing manager" to me.

The real problem with titles is that "Technical Writer" is used
to indicate three types of positions:

1. Technical writers,
2. Editors of one kind or another,
3. Secretaries, word processors, or DTP operators.

I've seen engineers who were unable to grasp the idea that a technical
writer might be different from a DTP operator. After all, at their
previous companies they had never seen a technical writer do anything
other than formatting and light copy-editing.

I once interviewed a man with for an opening I had for an experienced
technical writer. It turned out that he had never written anything,
and didn't expect that he ever would write anything. Nor did he want to.
He had fifteen years' experience as a "technical writer" for a prominent
high-tech company. His tasks were apparently limited to light copy-editing,
managing review cycles, and word processing. Secretarial work.

I think that THIS is why writers tend to shy away from putting
"technical writer" on their business cards.

My solution is to put "President" on my business card. But if
I were back in the trenches, I'd ask that my card say:

Robert Plamondon

I could thus grab the entire mystique surrounding authors without
invoking the abused term "technical writer" at all. This is much
better than resorting to euphemism, in my opinion.

-- Robert
Robert Plamondon, High-Tech Technical Writing, Inc.
36475 Norton Creek Road * Blodgett * Oregon * 97326
robert -at- plamondon -dot- com * (541) 453-5841 * Fax: (541) 453-4139

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