Re: Tech Writers who don't like technology

Subject: Re: Tech Writers who don't like technology
From: Rene Gedaly <rgedaly -at- EMAIL -dot- MSN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 May 1998 11:13:01 -0500

As I wipe the orange juice from my screen, let me say Beth, I don't think
you take strong exception to my statement. In fact, I think you agree with
me, although l do admit I wrote my posting to get maximum reaction! My
objection is to writers who are disinterested in the subject matter of their
work, and then pursue employment in that field. I did not say all tech
writers were that way (though I implied it to get a reaction--mea culpa).
You make the same point. With the interest and ability to learn, we need not
be technical at the same level as our SMEs. I once worked with a very good
writer who explained that she did not have to understand what she was
writing about, she could still "break the code" and write good manuals. You
know, she was right--almost! In flawless, fluid writing, she de-coded a lot
about nothing.

My personal prejudice is that in tech writing, even for technical audiences,
we serve our audiences better when we are good generalists, good
communicators, who "go deep" only as required. Some of us, for some jobs,
will spend more time at those deeper levels than others. And, I'll bet you'd
agree that the term technical writer implies something different to the
engineering department than it does to the marketing. I object to writers
who don't write as if audience matters.

I'm not usually so concerned about consensus. I just get the sense that now
that the information age has hit my 81 year-old grandmother, tech writers
need to move from being a "racket," that is, you can be a tech writer just
by saying you are, to an established, certified profession.

-----Original Message-----
From: Beth Agnew <bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com>
To: 'Rene Gedaly' <rgedaly -at- EMAIL -dot- MSN -dot- COM>; Techlist (E-mail)
Date: Monday, May 11, 1998 9:23 AM
Subject: RE: Tech Writers who don't like technology

>Yikes! What a thing to hit me with on Monday morning! I really have to take
>strong exception to this statement by Rene Gedaly [rgedaly -at- EMAIL -dot- MSN -dot- COM]:
>> What surprises me most about the non-technical tech writers I've met is
>> they don't seem interested in the scientific world, they don't want to be
>> bothered learning new technology aside from their own communication
>> and they're even ignorant of the scientific method. I've yet to meet
>> writer who reads or subscribes to Science News, Scientific American, or
>> any(!) technical journal as either a way to keep up in the industry or
>> sheer pleasure. I really hope this is because I don't get out much.
>Now that I've wiped off the spit orange juice that got sprayed all over my
>keyboard when I read that, let me say that I'm a technical writer (and a
>damn good one, BTW) with a degree in _Fine Arts_ who LOVES science and
>technology! I'd be in the wrong blinking profession otherwise. If you don't
>love it enough to learn about it, you CANNOT write about it with authority.
>I have written compelling articles, scripts, and documentation about pond
>scum, as well as geoscience, biology, immunology, virology, and a whole
>of other stuff that is certainly "hard science" as well as deep technology.
>Yet I would certainly describe myself as a non-technical technical writer.
>I'll forgive you the gross generalization Rene, because maybe the writers
>you've talked to *have* been ignorant of the wonders of science and
>technology. Too bad, their careers will suffer for it, and it makes the job
>that much harder for the rest of us who have to prove to clients that
>non-technical writers can do a credible job of writing about technology.
>Fortunately, my breadth of work speaks for itself.
>Beth Agnew
>Senior Technical Writer, InSystems Technologies Inc.
>65 Allstate Parkway, Suite 100 Tel: (905) 513-1400 ext. 280
>Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 9X1 Fax: (905) 513-1419
>mailto:bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com Visit us at:
>See my friendly face at:

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