Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: Max Wyss <prodok -at- PRODOK -dot- CH>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 11:31:01 +0200


It seems to be a problem all over the world.

In many cases, "Technical Writer" is just a title, but there is no general
understanding of what has to be expected from a technical writer. Then,
there seems to be such a high demand, that almost everyone and anyone wants
to be a technical writer.

In order to fully understand something, you would have to be on a similar
level of understanding as the developer or engineer. Now, if you have that,
why are you technical writer and not developer or engineer? The pay is much
better anway, so why bother at all with writing. And yeah, find an engineer
who likes to write ... you can be sure, it is a rare breed.

Now, if you do have one of this rare breed at hand, how should that highly
qualified person really compete with cheapo-cheapo wannabees. In a business
environment where anything is based on the cost, you need a very good
client to accept paying for a highly qualified person. IMHO, the technical
writing market is a "you get what you pay" market.

Max Wyss
PRODOK Engineering AG
Technical documentation and translations, Electronic Publishing
CH-8906 Bonstetten, Switzerland

Fax: +41 1 700 20 37
e-mail: mailto:prodok -at- prodok -dot- ch or 100012 -dot- 44 -at- compuserve -dot- com

Bridging the Knowledge Gap


>I have an issue for everyone to ponder.
>As you may or may not care, I own a consulting company in Portland, OR. I
>deal with a lot of agencies and companies and there seems to be one,
>overwhelming frustration with a lot of my clients. They cannot find writers
>who can handle technical issues. (Naturally, this is why they hire my
>company, but that is different self-serving story.)
>It seems like there is a glut of writers who can discern the minute
>intricacies of bullet shapes and alignment proportions, but they can't deal
>with anything remotely technical. I am reminded of a writer I worked with at
>a client site. He spent every waking moment at work NOT writing. He was
>always obsessing over style guides, templates, and font specifications.
>When he finally did write a document about this database application I was
>appalled at his complete lack of understanding for some basic technical
>concepts such as database normalization, primary keys, and stored
>I just had a long conversation today with an associate at a large consulting
>company in the Bay Area. He said that this problem is getting worse. There
>are more and more non-technical people selling themselves as technical
>people. It frustrates them because their clients expect the consultants to
>be the technical experts.
>I am curious what you and your company do about this problem. How do you
>deal with non-technical people selling themselves as being technical? When
>someone starts obsessing over the shape of bullets and completely ignores
>the fact that the material in question is technically inaccurate what do you
>do? Fire them? Beat them with a 2x4? Send them to Dan Dorfman's School
>for Technical Underachievers?
>It seems to me that the more non-technical, technical writers there are --
>the more it hurts those of us that work very hard stay current with the
>latest technologies. I'm not talking about knowing how to use the latest
>version of FrameMaker. I mean knowing the nitty-gritty technical details
>about the technologies you are documenting.
>I'll be up-front and admit I have a hidden agenda for asking this question.
>I am really interested in collecting some horror stories about this as well
>as how those situations were resolved. This is for a special project I am
>working on.
>Send your responses to aplato -at- anitian -dot- com . I'll post a summary to the list
>in a few weeks.
>Andrew Plato
>Owner/Principal Consultant
>Anitian Technology Services

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