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Let's look at the issue of certification from first a universal
perspective. In order to have certification, an organization must first be
established as the certifying party. In order for this to happen, everyone
(or a majority of everyone) in the field of technical documentation must
buy in to whom the certifying party will be. Not just the STC (and they
should not be the certifying party IMHO), but every college and university
that has a TW program, every employer that uses TWs (to include the Depts
of Defense, Energy, etc.), and every practitioner of technical
After this organization is established based on the needs, expectations,
and desires of the majority of everyone involved in TW, the second step
must be accomplished. This step is, perhaps, harder than the first.
Together with representatives from all those that are in the TW profession,
criteria have to be established against which a TW is tested. What would
those criteria be? If we say that a prerequisite for certification is a
minimum of a B.A. degree, because knowledge of the mechanics of writing are
inherently certified by the English and TW courses one completes as part of
the degree program, we have ruled out certification of all those TWs with
out degrees, but with many years SUCCESSFUL TW experience. (What a long
sentence!) Do we then decide that one criterion is an ability to diagram
sentences, explain grammar rules, and spell correctly? Will we then exempt
degreed people from taking that portion of the certification test, but
force TWs with 20 years experience to take it. How embarrassing for them.
Will we use ISO 9000 as a guide? I've never had to write to those standards
as a civilian, and in the military, I wrote to MILSPEC and DOD guidelines.
Who will be the arbiter of "good" writing vs. effective writing, and who
will set the standard(s) for what effective writing is for each and every
industry, target audience, and circumstance?
The third aspect to certification is enforcement and/or regulation. Will we
have certification police send letters or visit employers to see if their
TWs are certified and if the employer is compliant? Will people be denied
work because they are not certified, but have the skills and ability to do
the job anyhow?
Before we continue the ongoing debate on certification, how about someone
coming up with some good answers to the hard questions about organization,
qualification, standards, and implementation.
This has been one man's opinion, yours may vary with mileage.