Subject: Re: SACRED COWS
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 13:31:20 -0500

Funny this came up today. I've been thinking about a local tech
comm program. The director was recruited by the local university's
Engineering division because engineers' writing skills were so poor. The
program has grown and now offers at least two 3-hr-credit courses. There
is some talk of developing it into a "technical communication" in, after your complete this program, you too can be a
technical writer.
IMHO, Wrong!
The program as initally designed is (gross oversimplification
ahead) a comp course for engineers. It discusses proposal-writing
specifically, because that's the "technical writing" most engineers will
be required to do/contribute to, to keep their jobs.
It covers the idea of purpose & users, meeting audience needs for
info, and lots of basic grammar. Also composition issues: level of detail,
appropriate content, hierarchical ordering of info.
Another course addresses procedure writing, esp. ISO900x. It
focuses (last I knew) on the audience as the "lay" employees at the
engineer's place of
You get, IMHO, engineers who can write better than they would
otherwise have written. You probably also get engineers who can write
better than many people calling themselves tech writers.
What you don't get *is* tech communicators. Say "CBT." Say
"Instructional Design." Say "GUI." Say "Translation." Say "Task & User
User." Watch blank faces.
If TW = writes grammatically correct sentences surrounded by 1/3
white space on paper, then maybe it's
easier to teach. If TW = communication specialist, it's its own discipline
and requires its own training, experience, knowledge set, and ongoing
skills update.
The answers we're seeing probably demonstrate where each of us is
on that continuum.

Mary Durlak Erie Documentation Inc.
East Aurora, New York (near Buffalo)
durl -at- buffnet -dot- net

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