Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer (longish)

Subject: Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer (longish)
From: "McMARTIN, Robert" <rmcmarti -at- BAEA -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 15:34:48 +0930

Morning TechWhirlers,

A new thread to follow which may, or may not bring a number of threads

As Technical Writers (or non-technical Technical Writers) we have one
thing in common. We have the same culture.
We speak the same language (so to speak), we have the same likes and
dislikes towards formatting, editing, engineers/programmers.
Whether we know it or not we (Technical Writers) have our own culture
which transposes distance, borders and countries.

A culture is the way a group of people give meaning to the world around
them, how they solve problems and how they do work, along with our own
rituals and language. (quote taken from Steve Portigals article "Design
as a Cultural Activity", SIGCHI Bulletin July 1997 Issue).

We are all part of more than one culture, we can converse with the
engineers/programmers in language that they understand and we understand
how they think. We may not always agree with what they do, or how they
do it. The means that the writing/editing process takes on a greater
role than just putting words on paper it's about the taking from one
culture and translating that culture's "speak" to a wider number of

Perhaps this is what it means to be a Technical Writer, taking from a
technical culture and transposing it into a language of the wider
cultures. I'm a Technical Writer, I try to translate what someone
creates, be it a computer program for a financial package, an
functioning of an electrical component within a weapon system, or the
removal procedure for the carburettor of a '63 Ford Falcon.

So perhaps we should remember that we are the translators of what others
cannot comprehend. It doesn't matter whether or not you have a high
school education and 12 months experience as a Tech Writer, or a PhD in
the esoteric functioning of prime numbers under Quantum Physics. If you
can take what is standard speak in one culture and translate it for the
greater masses in many cultures in my book that makes you a Technical

end of rant.

Now let the flames begin.


Robert McMartin |There can be no reconciliation
Documentation and Training |where there is no open warfare.
Development Officer |There must be a battle, a brave
British Aerospace Australia |boisterous battle, with pennants

|waving and cannon roaring, before
|there can be peaceful treaties
|and enthusiastic shaking of hands.
|-- Mary Elizabeth Braddon
| (1837-1915).
The opinions of Robert McMartin are just that, his opinions and
do not reflect, or represent in any way, shape or form
British Aerospace Australia.

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