Re: Finding Good Writers

Subject: Re: Finding Good Writers
From: Robert Plamondon <robert -at- PLAMONDON -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 23:03:27 PST

David Locke writes:

>Copyeditor redlines can be used to move responsibility from the writer, or
>to train the writer to improve. In a TQM environment, QC finds defects and
>QA learns from them. I would expect that my writers learn from their
>mistakes. That is Demming. Mistakes are ok as long as the lessons are not
>ignored. Continuing to make the same mistakes is a sign of irresponsibility
>and lack of professionalism. The absense of mistakes is NOT a measure of

>How do you find TWs like that?

My experience is that it's easy to find writers who want to write well.
All you have to do is get them before some Job Experience From Hell has
bludgeoned them into a professional coma, and avoid the writers with
personal problems that prevent them from seeing the actual work. For
example, some writers have a finely tuned sense of hierarchy, and refuse
to listen to or learn from anyone who isn't above them on the org chart.

I don't have any perfect techniques for detecting this. But watch for
the warning signs. If you could easily toy with the concept that the
person you just interviewed is an escaped axe murderer or an incredibly
talented space alien in disguise, this is a bad sign. In fact, it's
a VERY bad sign.

I allow interviews to ramble on at random, since I learn more from the
other person's association of ideas than from any formal sets
of questions. I'd like to believe that I do this out of some grand
insight, but in fact I find the usual interview questions take only
about ten minutes, and there's a lot of time left over for war stories.
Still, war stories tell me something about how the candidate approaches
real-life documentation issues, which is more than can be said about
asking tired questions about strengths and weaknesses, or listening to
the lies said in place of the simple, "In five years I'll be long gone,
unless your company is a lot better than it looks."

(By the way, Deming would disagree that "continuing to make the same
mistakes is a sign of irresponsibility and lack of professionalism."
He would have asserted, blandly, that when improvement ceases, further
training is wasted, and one must figure out what to with an employee
who has peaked at that particular skill. Deming generally reserved
blame for executives.)

-- 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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