Re: Writers or what? WAS Word-processing or DTP -Reply

Subject: Re: Writers or what? WAS Word-processing or DTP -Reply
From: Lisa Comeau <COMEAUL -at- CSA -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 1998 17:14:30 -0400

*Note: I am NOT flaming George on this one...*

George Mena wrote:
I've believed since 1990 that a tech writer should be able to:
* write and edit the subject matter
I agree, after all, isn't the second part of the title the word "writer"?

* create and edit graphics in AutoCAD, Photoshop and Illustrator
what if your place of work, or your own company doesn't use these tools? What if you use something else? What if (Heaven forbid) you are still typesetting?

* be able to read drawings and schematics
>>>>>If that's appropriate to your technical writing function-I work primarily on end-use3r software manuals for existing "off the shelf" software. Granted, I *can* read drawings and schematics (thanx to my electrician ex...) but I don't need to for my current position, and if and when I leave here, I'm not planning to do any documentation for airplane engines and the like, so I probably *won't* use my diagram deciphering skills.

* be able to read and write code if necessary
>>>>>Again, this is a skill I possess, but I *absolutely, positively despise* doing it, and if it was a prerequisite for my getting a TW job that started at $100,000 per year, I *Still* wouldn't do it.

* create online help files as required
>>>>>*if* the company/ies you deal with go this route. In my position, I am *allowed* to write the information, but due to strict guidelines as to document content, I am not allowed to actually author the online help program.

* write a doc plan
>>>>>This I agree with wholeheartedly, because I have always (somewhat anally, I admit) insisted that you can't do *anything* without a plan, especially documentation. If it's not written down, it's still planned, but it's *better* when that plan is tangible and written.

* manage the doc project from start to finish
>>>>>Again, this depends on the constraints of where you work and whom you work for.

* do a prepress blueline check
>>>>>Why? Unless you're the owner of the company or you're moonlighting in accounting, why would you need to, or for that matter, why would the company allow you to?

* develop a print spec for his job
>>>>>This one confounds me...

* do page layout
>>>>>May I say that a good techwriter (or company for that matter) should have stylesheets which have already formatted page layout...but if they don't, I agree that a good TW should be able to do this.

* be willing to travel -- and get dirty while doing the job being documented -- if needed
>>>>>I'd love to travel, but is my company going to send me to Hawaii to document how our product works in their climate when someone from there can email me with that info for free?

* be able to diagnose and troubleshoot the computer I do my techdocs on
using Norton and McAfee
>>>>>I agree that *every* user should have these basic skills, as well as basic file management and telecommunication know-how, but it's not realistic. In my world, we have a useless outsourcer that takes 5 days to fix something that takes me 10 minutes, but I'm not *allowed* to do it because it voids their contract and therefore voids any warranty.

I guess what I am trying to get across here is that *once again*, posters are getting to the meat fo their jobs here, and defining what does or does not make a technical writer. (Should I be surprised? Probably not.) This is *not* an exercise in discussion, it's and exercise in futility.

We all work in deifferent towns, in different companies, in different capacities, under different circumstances, with different job descriptions. Can't we just decide to say "Yes, I want to be able to do layout and graphics, I like it that way", or "I don't like doing the page layout and graphics, so I write the copy and hand it over" instead of us all throwing in our $200 worth of what a techwriter is, is not, or is supposed to be?

How are you, oh gentle reader, supposed to know what depth of writing and desktop publishing my position entails? Do you sit at my desk? Do you have my job description in your hand?(which, by the way, changes every day) How are you to know whether my authority or lack thereof *allows* me to do my own layout and graphics?

Since you can't know these things about me, how can you know them about the other "4000" people on this list? Can we stop telling each other what our positions *must* consist of and why they must be this way, and move on to what our own positions consist of and why they are that way for us? The differences that make us unique should unite us rather than divide.

I'm going to slowly lower my hands now...I'm *not* going for the gun, I just want to roll my aching body off of the giant soapbox and go get some sleep...

Lisa Comeau
IS Super-User/Trainer
Certification and Testing Division
Canadian Standards Association
Rexdale, ON
comeaul -at- csa -dot- ca

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