Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 12:57:15 EDT

In a message dated 98-05-06 06:20:22 EDT, wallyg1 -at- PACBELL -dot- NET writes:

<< They are looking for a writer to add
content to human resource/personnel software applications in the Windows
environment, and I was turned down because my writing experience and general
background was "too technical." That was a first. I suspect the real reason
was that they didn't want to pay for a fully qualified writer. >>

I had a similar experience in LA where the woman interviewing me kept saying
about my samples and my resume "This is VERY impressive" all the while asking
for hints on how to handle the technical side of the documentation (which
she'd been handling herself until then.) Yet, it was clear to me the whole
time that I was NOT going to get the project.

In this case (pretty rare, I think), I suspect she just wasn't comfortable
having someone come in with far more technical expertise than herself. I'd
encountered similar attitudes from some older programmers way back when I'd
started as a programmer in France, but never in the technical writing world.
And I do think it's pretty rare.

On the other hand, even though I'm an ex-programmer and have had to bite my
tongue not to entirely re-structure some of the applications I've documented,
the fact is that on more than one of my projects, my technical expertise was
pretty much besides the point. In some situations, what's really needed is a
good editor more than anything else.

We come back to this over and over - technical writing means many things. So
I'd say, yes, there are technical writers who really aren't very technical.
But there are also technical writers who aren't very editorial. And both
types might do an excellent job in situations that call on the expertise they
DO have.

Where it becomes a problem is when the client thinks that 'technical writer'
means someone who can do everything equally well and gets someone who can't.
A technically weak writer may do badly on a very technical project. But so
would an editorially weak writer on a project where presentation is the key

Jim Chevallier
North Hollywood

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