Re: Engineers and Writers

Subject: Re: Engineers and Writers
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 15 Mar 1997 12:19:13 -0600

>> I think that is much, much harder to teach a Writer to subclass objects
>> or perform step analysis on a circuit than it is to teach an Engineer
>> not to end a sentence with a preposition.
>
>That's a strange idea of what writing is about you have there.

It would be if it was supplied as a complete definition of writing.
However, the context of the discussion was on teaching writing skills to
an Engineer in comparison with teaching technical skills to a Writer.
The subclassing of objects and the prepositions at the end of sentences
were examples of a small part of the skills required in the Engineering
and writing professions, respectively. Time, space, and so forth, does
not allow for a complete description and a line item comparison of all
the skills of both professions.

Not ending sentence with a preposition is no more a definition of
writing than step analysis is of Engineering. However, supplied as
examples in support of the argument in its original context (which you
lost by truncating the quote), they make the point.

>> I've not met
>> any Technical Writers who can design a circuit to compensate for the
>> effects of acceleration on a signal source.
>
>And that's not our job either. Our job is to document the compensation
>gizmo the engineering guys came up with. To do that you have to
>understand what the thing does, you don't have to be familiar with every
>aspect of its inner workings.

No kidding? Again, another truncated quote which changes the context.
I'm not describing the technical writing duties as being engineering
duties. I'm making a comparison between the degrees of difficulty
between the respective job duties.
>
>> If you don't believe me,
>> compare the salaries of Technical Writers to Engineers.
>
>I make more than a lot of developers in the company, and I believe
>that's not all that uncommon.

You argue by exceptions instead of the norm. I'll rephrase. Compare
the average engineering salary to the average technical writing salary.
>
>> Writing for us is functional, not artistic. The artistic side to
>> writing may be more suitable for other fields of writing.
>
>I don't think you can separate the two. There are plenty of rule-book
>toting dillettantes around who think they can write. Good writing,
>technical or otherwise, always has an artistic side to it.
>
>Mike Dannenberg

The problem is that many think it is almost completely artistic. This
may be the gist of artistic vs. technical undertones. It may be that
there are many in the technical writing profession who envision
themselves as artists. Being that they cannot make a living doing
artistic/creative writing, they turn to industry to earn a living as a
Technical Writer. However, they still feel that they want to express
their writing artistically rather than functionally. They resist the
technical aspects of the job and carry on with the mantra, "I'm am a
Writer and nothing else".

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

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