Re: Do techies really know what other techies need?

Subject: Re: Do techies really know what other techies need?
From: Jane Bergen <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 20 Mar 1997 16:31:53 -0600

At 01:30 PM 3/20/97 -0800, Sella Rush wrote:

>My problem is that the programmer I work most closely with despises all
>my tries at making text more accessible. (I really don't think it's all
>my problem because he's the only one that complains--but he's the
>important one). His stock response is "they're programmers, they'll
>understand what I'm saying." He also hates anything that might sound

Oh, boy...you've hit a hot button here. I think all of us have come up
against this, most usually from engineers, but not always. They think that
simple language is "dumbing down" (as one engineer called it). Sometimes
they say I'm "doing the tech writer thing" (marketing types love this
accusation....then they rewrite it with fragmented sentences). I've been
swimming up this stream for about four years now.

My solution has been to go to the bookstore and buy a couple books on clear
writing for business documents (be sure it says "Business" in the
title...otherwise it won't work) and keep them on my desk. When a dispute
comes up, I find an example to support my position. This is a last resort
of course, but so far it's working. I'm finding fewer and fewer pockets of
resistance. I also have been fairly successful at explaining WHY passive
voice doesn't work... or WHY a sentence should not be a single paragraph.
You just have to arm yourself and then wear them down. Just remember to
keep the conversation as objective as possible and smile and be as pleasant
as possible when you discuss it.

Now THIS subject would make a great article for a technical writing
journal. Gather some bad writing examples (but common ones), then analyze
them (citing studies), and rewrite the examples. Then explain how to
approach the objector. So many articles concentrate on the technical or
legalistic aspects, but ignore the human interaction.

Jane Bergen


Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
AnswerSoft, Inc. Dallas, TX
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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