To aspiring Techncial Writers (a bit long)

Subject: To aspiring Techncial Writers (a bit long)
From: John David Hickey <jdavid -at- FARABI -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 12:04:50 -0500


I've seen a few posts on this list from people wanting to break into the
field, and that's great. I'm glad our profession is getting more recognition
and more people are showing interest.

I'd like to impart a bit of free advice to these new people though. And
hopefully, other tech writers in this list will agree with me or maybe they
won't. That's what I love about this place: such a great forum for debate.

While you, the aspiring ones, learn about grammar, style, researching
techniques, and technology, there's another skill that they don't really
teach in school that you should be aware of. I only realized it after a
couple of years in the field and after many mistakes and failures.

You have to be stubborn, wise, and compromising. Let me break that down for
you. Mind you, I'm NOT dumbing it down! <g>

Stubborn: You're going to run into a few obstacles on the way to completing
your project, so you've got to be persistent. Make sure you've got the right
information, stick to your schedule, make sure others stick to your
schedule, don't let people brush you off, and defend your position! You're
going to run into dozens of other unqualified people who are going to try to
remake you (and the document) into their own graven image. Be tough and be
proud and don't let them run you down.

Wise: While you're defending your position and staving off the forces of
evil around you, be sure to listen to what they're saying. Sure, maybe 75%
of what they're saying is way off the mark, but there's always a kernel of
truth to it and you're going to have to dig a little to find it. Well...
Maybe dig a lot.

Compromising: The result of Stubborn and Wise, you're going to have to give
a little to get ahead. Stick to your guns on the important stuff, but learn
where you can adapt your formula to your client's needs.

As much as they teach you in school, nothing fully prepares you for dealing
with engineers. I got canned from my first job because I was totally
unprepared for the developer onslaught. I was run down, I got depressed, and
I got fired. That's okay though because I learned from it and my next job
taught me even more (thanks Maggie!).

So where does all this come from? I just got back from a review session with
a developer on my second draft document. Instead of commenting on the
technical content like I had asked him to, he tried to restructure the
entire document, decide what level of information to include, and correct my
grammar (he wanted more passive phrases). In order to deal with him, I had
to be stubborn, wise, and compromising (but not on the passive phrases).

Be seeing you,

John David Hickey (jdavid -at- farabi -dot- com)
DNRC Title: "Technical Writing Poohbah"

Lone Writer at Farabi Technology Corp. (Montreal, Quebec)

They say the pen is mighter than the sword.
But if you miss a deadline, you'd better bring the sword.
Do not confuse my opinons with my employer's.
Each exists in blissful ignorance of the other.

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

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