Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers -Reply

Subject: Re: Non-technical, Technical Writers -Reply
From: Lisa Comeau <COMEAUL -at- CSA -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 7 May 1998 09:01:47 -0400

I have been following this thread with a great deal of interest, and have
made a summary of all your opinions which I have paraphrased. (If
anyone wants it, I can send it.)

So now that I have calmly and thoroughly read all of your postings, and
have had time to think about the issue, I feel ready to put my 2 cents in
the pot.

First, let me say that you all have some very good and valid points on this
issue.

Second, let me state that, for the record, I am both a technical tech
writer, AND a non-technical tech writer. (I am an Information Technology
Specialist-WITH a degree, but I was also an English Major in university
where-by the way-I hung out with students twice my age to get away
from the partying, but keep my social skills.) I could write a manual on
software or hardware, but not on environmental engineering
specifications.

I am also an IT Instructor, and my verbal skills far outweigh my writing
ability, but here I am, writing procedures and manuals that are both task
and job specific (No, in my case, they aren't the same thing) as well as
teaching software applications.

What exactly does the word technical mean? There are so many fields
that use the word, and they all refer to something different. I was
thinking of going back to University to upgrade my English degree with a
Technical Writing degree as well (which, fortunately for my pocketbook,
my employer will pay for) but when I looked at what 6 different
Universities were offering, I found some interesting facts.

Out of these 6 Technical Writing subjects, 1 was for writing End-User
Manuals (but not specifically for software, which is what I was looking
for), 1 was for Engineering Specification writing (a course, not
something you could get a full degree in), 2 were architecture related,
and 2 were for writing things like instructions for barbecues.

So somebody please tell me, if 6 people took these courses, which one
would be the elusive technical writer that Andrew started this thread
seeking?

When people misrepresent themselves in an interview, they are lying.
When someone honestly believes they have specific skills (usually
because someone else with no knowledge base told them they did), they
aren't lying. So here's what I propose:

When interviewing a candidate for a position, ask QUALITATIVE
questions, and see if they are lying about their credentials, or they have
just misunderstood what their skill set is.

And for crying out loud, we as a community have to STOP this using of
the same word for different things! The English language is one of the
hardest to learn because so many words look and sound the same, but
mean something totally different! So when someone asks you what you
do for a living, give them an explanation, not a title! Technical Writer can
mean many things to many people, we have an excellent grasp on the
English language, why don't we use it???

My opinion (for now...) (NOTE: Written on May 6th...)

Lisa Comeau
IS Super-User/Trainer
Certification & Testing Division
Canadian Standards Association
Etobicoke, ONTARIO
comeaul -at- csa -dot- ca
(416) 747 2597




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