Re: Tech Writers - No Exp. Nec?

Subject: Re: Tech Writers - No Exp. Nec?
From: Beth Agnew <bagnew -at- INSYSTEMS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 10 Oct 1997 16:53:09 -0400

On Friday, October 10, 1997 12:03 PM, Metzger, Lucinda
[SMTP:cmetzger -at- MAIL -dot- DUKANE -dot- COM] wrote:
> Reminds me of the ad I saw in my local paper last week. An insurance
> company (who shall remain nameless) was looking for tech writers. The
> only experience they asked for was knowledge of certain types of
> insurance. No writing ability or experience was required. Gee, now I
> know why the stuff I get from my insurance company is written so badly.
> <g>

Actually, there is a very sane reason for that ad, it's just that only
someone in the business would know what's really going on. The term they
might have used in the ad was "document specialist" ("technical writer" is
sometimes used erroneously as a synonym) -- this is a particular function
within the insurance industry where the person uses a word processor to
code model documents that are used with large-scale document assembly
programs (such as our Mosaic software) to produce intricate insurance
policies, contracts, and so forth.

These people actually don't need any experience other than being able to
use a word processor. Some knowledge of the insurance industry is an asset.
They are hardly technical writers! However, they do become very adept at
using complex rules and expressions to organize content in a document.
There's a whole lot more to it than that, but that's the gist. It's
certainly a niche career. :-)

The other aspect is the "bad" writing that comes out of the insurance
industry. There is actually a "genre" of writing, unique to the insurance
industry (and studied by Catherine F. Schryer, University of Waterloo - she
reported on it at the last STC conference) that _demands_ some of this
stilted phraseology and what most of us would call "bad writing". It's
fascinating stuff. For example, Schryer pointed out that some insurance
industry correspondence is specifically designed so that it will NOT
provoke a response.

And you thought we insurance industry folks were all -- um, stuffed shirts
perhaps? <VBG> Just goes to show you that there apparently is method in


Beth Agnew
Senior Technical Writer, InSystems Technologies Inc.
65 Allstate Parkway, Suite 100 Tel: (905) 513-1400 ext. 280
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 9X1 Fax: (905) 513-1419
mailto:bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com Visit us at:

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