Re: inter-writer relations

Subject: Re: inter-writer relations
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- RRINC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 15:14:48 -0500

At 02:30 PM 10/29/97 -0500, someone wrote:
>True, journalism has its "formula" for writing which is quite different
>from writing manuals but the core competencies are such that very little
>adaptation should be required to go from writing about high tech to writing
>for high tech.
>Having done both technical writing and journalism, I can't see the

Well, I'm going to sit soundly on the fence on this one. As someone who
writes in a range of fields (everything from software manuals to grant
proposals to academic hoo-ha to poetry), I can see your point -- to me,
there are certain principles and skills I've learned to transfer from one
kind of writing to another.

On the other hand, after teaching first-year composition in college for 6
or 8 years, I also know that these things we call "writing skills" are not
*inherently* transferable. If a student learns to write a good literary
analysis, that doesn't necessarily mean she can write a chemistry lab
report. It doesn't mean she can't, but current work in composition theory
and pedagogy is full of debates about which writing skills are transferable
and which aren't -- and the non-transferability is part of the reason why
so many colleges and universities are turning towards Writing Across the
Curriculum programs that encourage upper division courses with substantial
writing components.

My point is that while some (many?) of us do learn to transfer writing in
one genre to writing in another, that transfer is not automatic. Not all
fiction writers can write poetry; not all columnists can write technical
manuals. There are some folks who have a natural bent for one genre or
another and have developed within that space.

Ultimately, then, it goes back to some of the points raised earlier about
being able to analyze an audience, quickly learn the subject at hand, and
adapt structure, language and style to fit audience needs. I don't know
the journalist in question, and maybe that person can cross genres, but I
don't think the ability to write in one mode inherently guarantees the
ability to write in all modes (though I'd think someone who'd written for
the computer industry would be a likely candidate for tech writing in that

Marie (feeling awfully ambiguous today)

Marie C. Paretti
Department of English Recognition Research, Inc.
University of Wisconsin - Madison Blacksburg, Virginia
mparetti -at- facstaff -dot- wisc -dot- edu mparetti -at- rrinc -dot- com

Sometimes I feel like a dog
standin' on a tool box
in the back of a pickup truck
doin' 90 round a corner
just tryin' to hang on for dear life.
James Bonamy

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