Re: Writing Samples

Subject: Re: Writing Samples
From: Horace Smith <hsmith -at- WT -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 1998 18:52:19 -0600

At 10:40 AM 3/24/98 -0500, Mark Baker wrote:
>Jon Leer writes:
>>Any writer who shows up without writing samples is hopeless. All writers
>>are judged by what they write.
>Not by me. If a writer shows me a manual they wrote for another company,
>what am I looking at? Is it a sample of that company's house style? If so,
>then it tells me nothing about the writer's style. Is it a sample of the
>writer's own style? Then all that proves is that the writer cannot write to
>house style. And how am I supposed to tell the difference?
>I judge writers by asking them questions about language. I ask them about
>the arguments they have with engineers. I ask them about users and their
>needs. I look for a lively interest in language and its foibles, and sniff
>out any hint of pedantry or formalism. I try to find out what matters to
>them and what they are willing to fight for. (Don't tell me you had a big
>fight over comma usage!) I look for a genuine appreciation of user needs and
>a healthy skepticism about academic usability findings. I look for a basic
>acceptance that this is business, not art.
>> Regarding confidentiality, the writer can
>>blot out any obvious tradenames or edit the source to change the names.
>If that's is your idea of respecting confidentiallity, you are never going
>to work for me. Published work can be shown unchanged. Company confidential
>material must never be shown under any circumstances.
>>IMO, companies that have the philosophy that the writer can't use work for
>>a portfolio are treating writers as slaves, nothing more, nothing less.
>>Perhaps the writer can be selective in showing work that doesn't divulge
>>patent information. Ideally, the company should establish a policy that
>>considers a writer's need to build a portfolio.
>Nonsense. Do you imagine that any company anywhere extends that sort of
>privilege to any other profession? Do you think programmers keep portfolios
>of the code they have written to show to prospective future employers? Of
>course not. Writers, in fact, are enormously fortunate in this regard
>because much of the work they do for a company is published and therefore
>can be shown to prospective employers. You have no rights in work done for
>hire. None. Zip. Zero. This is a privilege, not a right.
>As a hiring manager I am frankly distressed by the cavalier attitudes to
>confidentiality and ownership issues displayed by some people who have
>posted on this topic. If you hired a man to paint your house, how would you
>feel if he said, "Of course, I'll need a key so that I can bring people to
>your house to show them samples of my work."?
>This is a words-for-cash business. I keep the words. You keep the cash.
>Mark Baker
>Manager, Corporate Communications
>OmniMark Technologies Corporation
>1400 Blair Place
>Gloucester, Ontario
>Canada, K1J 9B8
>Phone: 613-745-4242
>Fax: 613-745-5560
>Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com

Mr Baker has a good point. Besides, if you really want to see what a person
can do, have a relevant topic ready when that person comes, and have he or
she write something about that topic.

My writer's must have a good knowledge of electronic circuitry. So I
examine them on simple schematics. I think I can teach them how to write
much faster than I can teach them what to write.

Doesn't have to be technical. I had to write a manual on a #2 pencil at one
interview. I didn't take the job, because the pay was about the price of a
#2 pencil. >


Horace Smith
Sr. Documentation Engineer
Syntron, Inc.
17200 Park Row
Houston, TX 77084
mailto:hsmith -at- wt -dot- net
mailto:smith -at- syntron -dot- com

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