Re: Attitudes toward tech writers (Was: Re[2]: secretary's day)

Subject: Re: Attitudes toward tech writers (Was: Re[2]: secretary's day)
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 09:48:15 -0400

The especially risky thing about being perceived as a secretary is
that too many people think of TWs as typists. Perhaps it's not true in
your organization, but in providing services (or attempting to) as Erie
Doc, I've run into these true stories:

* the CEO of a local manufacturing co. who wanted me to
"review" a copy of a user's manual that a temp sec'y wrote for him. After
reviewing it, he wanted me to write a letter saying that it "was up to
contemporary technical writing standards"--*and* act as an expert witness
should the firm be prosecuted!
When I refused, citing my
attorney's advice, he got testy with me. So I found him someone
who would review the manual for him...a local communications professor
with expert witness credentials...who charges $395 an hour for the
The agency rate for the temp who wrote the manual was $12/hr.

* Another potential customer who wanted me to write a
profile of his company for a newspaper insert for $50. When I said that
was nowhere near enough, he said, "What's the big deal? I come down, tell
you some facts, and you write it up! It'll take you 10 minutes!"

* The client who ships manufacturing materials globablly and
who includes manuals because they have to. I report to their
receptionist/desk top publisher when I work for them.

* The client who balks at my hourly rate because
it's what he pays his engineers. He, too, doesn't see the difference
between a typist/DTP and a writer.

Most people have no idea how to tell good writing from bad in
general, let alone good technical writing. We all lose when we're
perceived as typists, however much we're appreciated.


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

On Wed, 22 Apr 1998, Penny Staples wrote:

> This isn't just about "What to do if one is mistaken for a secretary". I
> think the real issue we're discussing is how others (management, co-workers)
> perceive Tech Writers in the workplace.
> Some professions seem to have a prestige that goes with the job title (e.g.,
> Doctor, Mechanical Engineer). Most people have some idea about what they do
> for a living. However as a Tech Writer, I often run into people who haven't
> worked with someone in my profession before, and who have no real idea of
> what we do.
> If people like this develop the idea that writing and editing are jobs that
> can be performed by clerical staff, then the profession becomes devalued for
> us all. Why hire a writer for $40 an hour or more when we can get the "girls
> in the office" to do it for $12 an hour? (I've seen this one happen).
> I'm interested in finding out what strategies others are using to make sure
> they get taken seriously as professionals (seriously enough to get salaries
> in the same pay range as developers). Here are the things that occur to me:
> - Write well and write quickly (shouldn't need to be said, I know).
> - Market yourself. Let your co-workers know what you're working on.
> - Get involved in project meetings.
> - When it's appropriate, look for opportunities to expand your role (e.g.,
> information management on a web-site).
> - Keep up with trends in your profession, including changes in technology
> and tools.
> Penny Staples
> pstaples -at- airwire -dot- com
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Walker, Arlen P <Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM>
> Date: April 22, 1998 3:18 PM
> Subject: Re[2]: secretary's day
> > John, I'm so glad you don't mind being called a secretary. I have a
> > 300 page manuscript for which the file has been deleted. Somehow, we
> > can't find the file for this document anywhere. Fortunately, we do
> > have a hard copy, so someone can re-type it into a new file.
> >
> >Sure. Drop it in the sheet feeder over there on the scanner and I'll email
> >you the file for proofreading in a little bit. ;{>} Wonderful invention,
> >OCR software. Don't understand how offices got along without it.
> >
> >Seriously, I think this is blowing it a little out of proportion. The
> >original poster didn't have anyone asking her to do secretarial work, all
> >she had was some well-intentioned but misguided individual trying to do
> >something nice for her.
> >
> >Have fun,
> >Arlen
> >Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
> >DNRC 224
> >
> >Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
> >----------------------------------------------
> >In God we trust; all others must provide data.
> >----------------------------------------------
> >Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
> >If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.
> >
> >
> >
> >

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