Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 24 Mar 1998 to 25 Mar 1998

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 24 Mar 1998 to 25 Mar 1998
From: Wes Kalbfleisch <wesleyk -at- MDHOST -dot- CSE -dot- TEK -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Mar 1998 03:58:14 -0800

I don't seem to get all of the mail in my digest, so excuse me John if you
covered my comments later in your posting.

John Gilger wrote:

>It is easier to teach an engineer to write than it is to teach a "writer"
>"technical communicator" to understand and explain engineering principles
>and technology.

If writing is defined as grammar, mechanics, style, and structure, then I
agree with your statement. However, professional technical communicators
bring more to the table than traditional correct writing. The following
skill set comes easily to mind:

Instructional design
Graphic design and layout (paper and online)
Visual communication (not the same thing as graphic design)
User analysis (...never's a pet peeve)
User interface design
Document design for translation
Interviewing (this skill, or the relative lack of it, may be one
of the the sticky wickets in your comment regarding
"less-than-teachable" writers?)
Documentation project management

My wife, an IS-wiz and better than average writer, can't understand how I
can focus on developing documentation all day long. Not many of my friends
from my past life, some of whom write occasionally as part of their jobs,
understand why I enjoy doing what I do either. But I do enjoy my job, and
I think that most engineers enjoy theirs. Somehow though, I don't think
many of them actually covet my position.

Even if it's true that engineers (or anyone) can be taught to step back
from their primary function and "write," can they be taught to develop
appropriate user documentation efficiently, and do they even want to know
how? In most cases, probably not.

(You will notice that I conveniently chose not to argue the other aspect
of your statement. I think I'm pretty teachable, and I don't know of any
writers around here who have been declared beyond the pale. But, since
I'm not an engineer, I'll let someone else wax eloquent.)


Wes Kalbfleisch
Tektronix Inc.
MBD Customer Documentation
wesleyk -at- mdhost -dot- cse -dot- tek -dot- com
Definitely my opinions, not necessarily my employer's

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