Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 15:07:59 -0400

What in the world does "a person who is technical" mean? I have
tons of knowledge about financial products--the guy who fixes my car
wouldn't call me technical, though.

If I needed somebody with in-depth technical knowledge to write
about the product, I probably would advertise for a
programmer/chemist/brain surgeon with "strong writing skills." I
expect technical writers to be comfortable with and have a general
knowledge of, and interest in, technical subjects; I don't expect them
to know the subject as well as a subject matter expert. If I need an
SME, I'd hire one and edit his writing.

If someone *deliberately* misrepresented their skills to me, and
no other
skills I wanted, and I'd fire them. If there was a
miscommunication--say, I didn't know enough about water treatment to
interview the chemist well enough to evaluate his expertise--I guess I'd
probably apologize and fire him.

Then I'd learn how to interview, check references, and evaluate
writing samples for content as well as writing.


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

On Wed, 6 May 1998, Andrew Plato wrote:

> The question was: when faced with someone who has misrepresented themselves
> as a technical person, what do you do? How do you handle a person who
> clearly cannot deal with the technology yet are supposed to write about that
> technology? Do you help them? Fire them? Stick them in an editors
> position? What is the answer to solving the problem of non-technical,
> technical writers?
> There have been countless discussions on this group about the "definition of
> a technical writer". In my opinion, the definition of a technical writer is
> wholly summarized in the job title "technical writer": a person who is
> technical and writes documents. Period, end of discussion. Add all the
> bulls--t you want to your skill set, if your not technical or you don't
> write, you're not a technical writer.
> Moreover, there have been countless discussion about education in this
> group. That is really not the issue here. Regardless of how people learned
> what they learned, what do you do with them if they fail to live up to your
> expectations.

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