Re: Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer

Subject: Re: Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer
From: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- OMNIMARK -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 10:44:35 -0400

Johan Lont wrote


>Mark Baker wrote:
>> A good user guide is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a functional
>specification with > the engineering jargon translated into English.
>
>Technical writing is translating from a technical type of document to a
user
>guide. That is much more than translating the jargon. 'Translation' is a
>good metaphor for this activity.


No it isn't. 'Translation' implies a complete source which is rendered into
another form of expression. I have never seen or heard of a situation in
which there was a complete source on the using of a product created during
the development of a product, except that created by the technical
communication staff. We are not translators. We are creators of new
knowledge. Technical documents prepared by engineering or programming staff
are one of several research sources we use in doing our work. The product
specification or the commercial specification is an equally important
source, since it puts the product in the context of its intended audience.
Primary research with users is also essential.

We are supposed to be creators, not translators. If all we do is translate,
if we do no research, if we do not get inside the head of the user,
understand their tasks, their point of view, their interests and their
knowledge, if we do not create a new piece of information that is about the
users encounter with the product, rather than simply about the product
itself, we have failed. (And yes, there is a lot of documentation out there
that fails in just this way.)

We are technical *writers*, not translators. We *create* information
products on the use of technology. We are part of the research and
development process, not an afterthought or an add-on. We produce as
essential component of the total product package. We are co-creators with
the engineering staff, not translators of their solo creative effort.

---
Mark Baker
Manager, Corporate Communications
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com
Web: http://www.omnimark.com




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