Programming skills

Subject: Programming skills
From: Matthew Danda <matt -at- SONYTEL -dot- BE>
Date: Wed, 14 May 1997 11:23:22 +0200

In response to Michael Colliers posting on programming skills:

I am required to understand the basics of C++ and O-O programming, in order
to get an idea of what is going on. Sometimes simple code examples need to
be written for the User Manual, and another more technical technical writer
creates these.

Because so much of my work involves passive code-reading, as opposed to
code-writing, my programming skills are developing slowly.

I have been using every imaginable means to learn programming. Books are an
excellent means of learning to *read* code, but not to *write* code. I
believe that disciplined and organized formal instruction is required to
*really* learn to program, in my case, for the following reasons:

1. I do not have the leisure time to hack around with a compiler at home.
2. When I don't understand something, or can't isolate a bug in a simple
exercise...see number 1 above.
3. When other writing responsibilities are pressing, being a full-time
technical writer, see number 1 above.

When there is a forced classroom curriculum, with a skilled instructor,
these issues can be overcome.

When you mentioned organizations that are "...looking to hire technical
writers who can write user documentation straight from the application's
source code," the warning-bells immediately go off.
This skill should not be necessary, because good programmers document their
code and prepare technical documents explaining their work. The tech writer
cannot do this for them!

A skilled tech writer needs to understand the product and comprehend the
programmers' technical notes, and this sometimes requires some coding
skills. But the writer can not make up for a lack of disciplined

Hope this helps,

Matthew Danda Sony Objective Composer (SOCOM)
Technical Writer Sint Stevens Woluwestraat 55
matt -at- sonytel -dot- be 1130 Brussels / Belgium
tel: 00-32-2-724.17.43
fax: 00-32-2-726.26.86

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