Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 25 Feb 1997 to 26 Feb 1997

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 25 Feb 1997 to 26 Feb 1997
From: Jim Purcell <jimpur -at- MICROSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 1997 09:53:00 -0800

Stephen P. Victor broadsides, re typos in resumes:

>Yes, we've grasped your opinion already. The difficulty is that several
>of us believe that such "superficialities" as grammar and spelling are
>indeed the heart of the matter. They are the most basic tools of the
>writer's trade, and quite frankly I'm surprised to see someone who calls
>himself a writer denigrating their importance so vigorously.
>Now we're getting somewhere. Stephen's post, I think, gets to why this thread
>has gone on so long, picking up intensity as it goes. It isn't about resumes;
>it's about the nature of our profession. There seem to be two camps here,
>eyeing each other warily across the trenches. One one side are people who
>believe that "grammar and spelling" are the heart of technical writing. On
>the other are those who believe that grammar and spelling, while important,
>are only means to an end.
>If you have been following this thread, it won't surprise you to learn I'm
>not in Stephen's camp. I would go so far as to say that this obsession with
>orthographical and typographical perfection is an important reason that
>technical writers aren't taken as seriously as we feel we deserve to be. It
>implies that the principal contribution we make to organizations is that we
>are great spellers and grammarians. It reinforces the stereotype--also
>reinforced in this forum, from what I've seen--that we can gleefully pounce
>on one another's misspelling or dangling participle while completely missing
>the point of what we are reading. I maintain that this attitude, taken
>seriously enough among enough people, weakens the profession.
>Theodora Mazza, in supporting Stephen's position, offers this:
>I agree with you, Stephen. I can see McDonald employees discussing whether
>OK to have a typo or two in a resume, but tech. writers? I still can't get
>it. The experts?
>This is an unintentionally apt statement, because if grammar and spelling
>were really the heart of technical writing, most of us would be flipping
>burgers right now. This is not a question of standards; it is a question of
>priorities. The engineers who run most high tech companies do not care about
>these things, certainly not enough to pay the salaries that experienced
>technical writers are getting today. If you depend on your typing ability for
>your livelihood, you are going to be very distressed when bad times hit your
>The issue is not whether good grammar, proper spelling, and accurate typing
>are important. A writer who does not possess basic writing skills is, at
>best, going to require a lot of maintenance. But as Robert Plamondon has
>eloquently pointed out, spelling and grammar are not what your boss's boss is
>paying for. A letter-perfect document makes a good first impression, but if
>it doesn't say anything useful, or it contains technical errors, or the
>useful information is hard to find, that first impression will quickly give
>way to others less agreeable.
>Jim Purcell
>jimpur -at- microsoft -dot- com
>My opinions, not Microsoft's

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