Re: I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)

Subject: Re: I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)
From: "Steven J. Owens" <puff -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 26 Nov 1998 01:47:29 -0800

Jane Bergen writes:
> And people get tired of hearing me rant about why technical writing
> EDUCATION (i.e., technical writing courses...this is not about
> degrees) is important....just because someone can write a short story,
> a personal essay, or proper business correspondence does not
> necessarily (note that word, "necessarily") make the person a
> technical writer.

A little more self-editing might have helped here :-). I know
it's a rant, but even a rant can be concise, thoughtful, engaging,
make better use of whitespace, etc.

> Technical writing is not rocket science, a magical art, or a
> "gift" --- I believe that just about anyone can learn to write

Somebody (important to me, but not to you) once told me "Writing
is a craft." The point being that it lies somewhere between the range
of science and art. There are repeatable, teachable, practical
aspects that can be taught. There are creative aspects based on
talent that can be drawn forth by skillful teaching, but must be there
to begin with.

> technical documentation, but they do have to learn. It's not the style
> of writing generally taught in high school or college English classes,
> where grades are awarded by the pound (number of words that make sense
> and have a minimum of spelling and grammar errors) by most traditional
> teachers.

Heh, yes, my brother once told me about an experience like that;
in a college writing course, he was writing with the aim of concision,
and getting Bs and Cs. One day he decided to just be silly, used as
many big words as he knew, and got an A. It just goes to show.

> I hope, pray, fervently "wish" and "desire" <g> that those men and
> women who want to be GOOD technical writers (as opposed to merely
> "paid" technical writers) will take it upon themselves to investigate
> the differences and then skillfully apply the differences to their
> writing. The more good writing is out there, the more employers and
> readers (and maybe even recruiters) will begin to learn the
> difference.

I'm getting a *lot* of response to my offer of the "breaking into
technical writing" article (yes, I got all of the requests, I'm
planning to do a mass-mailing tomorrow or the day after). However,
several of the requests are not from college students. They're from
people employed in technical fields, who want to move into writing as
a career base. This has started me thinking about how to answer
*their* questions. If people are interested, perhaps I could post a
draft of such an article and get some feedback & suggestions.

I'd also like to write a "week in the life of a tech writer" to
give folks a feel for what the day-to-day life is like. Maybe even
two or three version, if I can get contributors from fields other than
software doc writing.

On the "value of techwriting", yes, raising our prices can help.
I've often seen that mentioned by independent consultants as a good
strategic move. Typically you get a different class of clientele, and
the ones who drop you are the ones you weren't that fond of to begin
with. But perhaps it'd be good to put together some "case studies",
particularly if you take a really bad doc and produce an award-winning
doc instead.

Maybe part of the problem is that the tech writing field doesn't
really communicate (market?) to the rest of the industries. This goes
back to the docs being seen as overhead, not core product, so the
software gets pumped by marketing but the docs get ignored. Anyway,
gotta run to start the turkey defrosting! Happy thanksgiving (or
whatever your holiday of choice is)!

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- netcom -dot- com

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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