Re: diffs betw tech and academic writing (was writing samples)

Subject: Re: diffs betw tech and academic writing (was writing samples)
From: "Marie C. Paretti" <mparetti -at- RRINC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 10:11:52 -0500

As one who has done both for much longer than I care to admit. . . .

Tech writing and academic writing are similar in that to be successful at
either demands a pretty thorough understanding (be it conscious or
unconscious) of the twin gods Audience and Purpose (which in turn govern
all those things like content, style, vocabulary, etc. etc.).

The two are different in that they have different audiences and different
purposes. And within academia (and tw), there are wide variations among
audience and purpose. For instance, I've been writing academic prose in
English lit for 10+ years, and I'd disagree with most of the generalization
Lani Hardage made about academic writing, with the exception of its
indifference to page layout and visual style (not a personal remark, Lani
-- just that I've had different experiences). And I'd disagree with some
of Lani's tech writing generalizations -- again, it's field/project specific.

One real difference between the two areas is that you don't necessarily
have to be a good writer to be a successful academic; if your peers think
you are brilliant, your prose can be ridiculously murky and still win
raves. On the other hand, if you are a lousy writer, chances are slim
(though not zero, unfortunately) that you will be a successful tech writer.
Which simply says that a tech writer's job is to write, while an
academic's job *may* include, and depend more on, teaching and research.

The more I write in various genres, disciplines, fields, etc. the more
strongly I believe in audience/purpose as fundamental to shaping the final
product.

Marie

Dr. Marie C. Paretti
Recognition Research, Inc. (RRI)
1750 Kraft Drive, Suite 2000
Blacksburg, VA 24060
mparetti -at- rrinc -dot- com
http://www.rrinc.com




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