Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers
From: Scott Miller <smiller -at- CORP -dot- PORTAL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 6 May 1998 12:17:39 -0700

Andrew, about your previous post... when you start by saying, "I have an
issue for everyone to ponder," people will start to ponder, and, well,
there you go.

More to the point, I think you got an answer, but it wasn't exactly what
you were looking for. The answer to "what do you do with non-technical
writers" seems to be... what's wrong with being non-technical? Most of
the responses you got were trying to explain that in a general sense,
being technical or non-technical is not an issue, the issue is being
able to write.

To answer your question more specifically, I've worked with writers who
could not handle complex technical information. Or maybe they just don't
want to. At any rate, what usually happens is that they get the easier
assignments, or they realize they're in over their head and leave. In
other words, the situation usually resolves itself.

The situation also depends on the technology in question. Some
technology can be learned on the job, for example, if you write about
hardware installation, that's pretty straightforward. On the other hand,
some technology takes a long time to learn. Since I can't read C code, I
would never take a job that required knowledge of C, because I know that
reading C is not something you just sort of pick up while you write a
manual. (Of course, if I was desperate it might be a different story.
I've jumped in way over my head a number of times.)

In your case, if the technology can be picked up fairly easily, and if
you have a really good writer, you might want to invest in that writer.
Eventually, you'll end up with a good writer who knows the technology.
You could instead start off with a bad writer who knows the technology,
and over time, end up with... a bad writer who knows the technology.

- Scott Miller
smiller -at- portal -dot- com


> Sheesh... I should know better.
> I am amazed at how many of you drifted this discussion off topic as
> quickly
> as possible. I think that says something right there.
> Let me be frank:
> This was not intended to be a discussion about technical writing
> education.
> This was not intended to be a discussion about political correctness.
> This was not really intended to be a discussion about the definition
> of a
> tech writer.
> If you want to continue those topics, take them to another thread
> please.
> 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.
> Sorry, but this group has a nasty tendency to use any hot issue to
> blather
> about their personal pet peeves, completely ignoring the topic of the
> discussion.
> ........................................................
> Andrew Plato
> Owner/Principal Consultant
> Anitian Technology Services
> &^~~~
> Send commands to listserv -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu (e.g., SIGNOFF
> Find contractor info at

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