New slant: professionalism

Subject: New slant: professionalism
From: "Bergen, Jane" <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 09:16:31 -0500

This whole thread is very interesting but unless I've missed it, one
aspect has not been discussed and that is whether we are enhancing the
professional aspect of technical communication in the workplace, or if
we are part of the problem.

As a fairly long-time active member of STC, I have had occasion to meet
and talk with many people who call themselves technical writers. Believe
me, I would not agree with their assessment of the terms. I see lots of
people who "fell into" their jobs with no technical communication
training. Some are pretty good, but most are not. The only proof is the
work they produce, which unfortunately is acceptable to many employers
who don't have a clue what good tech writing is all about. As manager of
the mentoring project, I get calls all the time from people who are
considering a career in tech communication but who don't have any idea
of what it's all about. It's not just having good grammar skills or
knowing how to use a particular program or understanding computers. What
it IS about is knowing how people use information, how people learn, how
audience analysis works, how to present complex and new information, and
so on. Too many times the "deeper" part of technical communication gets
swept aside for the mechanical, such as making a pretty page (even
though the organization sucks) or developing a whiz-bang online help
system (that no one can figure out how to use).

If we expect technical communication to be taken seriously as a
profession, we have to consider the following:

* How many research studies, and books and articles on technical
communication issues have you read in the past year?

* Are you a member of a professional organization such as STC?

* Do you attend conferences, workshops, etc. to keep up with the latest
trends and technologies?

* Have you pursued professional coursework in technical communication?
Or do you think you just "know it" because your boss is satisfied?

Sure you can be a technical writer without these things, but they're the
mark of the professional. It's not a title or a paycheck or a position.
If you don't take your profession seriously, how can you expect others
to do so?

End of rant,

Jane Bergen
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
AnswerSoft, Inc.
Richardson, TX (972)997-8355
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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