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

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 25 Feb 1997 to 26 Feb 1997
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 27 Feb 1997 13:16:13 -0600

>
>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.
>
>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 company.

I very much agree with you. The question I'm most presented with on the
job is, "When will you have this completed?". The second most asked
question is, "Are the sections you worked on earlier still accurate?".
This seems to indicate that once on the job, timeliness and technical
accuracy seem to be the main concerns.

Technical and grammatical skills are both important, but they can be a
hindrance if they affect timely delivery of the product. Time
management is a skill unto itself.

A person obsessed with dotting every "i" and crossing every "t" before
submitting a document for review/edit usually progresses very slowly and
maybe too cautiously. These people seem to get very flustered at design
changes and lack of specifications, lack of developer assistance, and so
forth (all of which characterize most projects). They often fill the
time tweaking the words and arguing the format. However, they sacrifice
the technical accuracy or at least place extra burden on SMEs and other
writers to get the job completed.

On the other hand, technical people can get wrapped up in learning
everything they can about the application. They may spend too much
time playing with the product, researching and testing new tools, and so
forth. As a result, they may write in a flurry
and not spend the effort to write clearly and cleanly.

Writing may be a profession for a perfectionist, but in technical
writing perfectionism must often be curbed for efficiency. Note, that I
said curbed. I am not implying that it should not be strived for. It
may take 25% of the time to do 90% of the writing. Sometime past this
point the improvements made to the document aren't as valuable to the
company as the time you are still spending to prepare the document.
This is the time to let it go.
>
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
>

I also (for the first time I can think of) agree with Robert. He stated
things well. (however, get a discussion going about whether Engineering
or Marketing should have a greater role in documentation, and we will
shoot arrows at one another;^))

I would like to add that a perfect resume along with grammatical and
technical skills, product knowledge, and excellent time management
skills create a winning combination. But to preclude a candidate on a
typo or two without investigating the candidate further (provided that
other qualifications are met) is more of an indictment of the Manager
than it is of the candidate. I would question if the manager who
filters candidates SOLEY based on typos, is weak in product knowledge,
technical skills, and/or time-management. Therefore, they disregard
them as necessary skills (or don't want someone who may expose them) and
they preclude candidates who don't match his/her own profile.

>
Mike Wing
_____________________________________________
| Michael Wing
| Principal Technical Writer
| Infrastructure Technical Information Development
| http://www.ingr.com/iss/products/mapping/
| Intergraph Corporation
| Huntsville, Alabama
| (205) 730-7250
| mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com

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