Re: Value of technical writers

Subject: Re: Value of technical writers
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 10:53:42 -0800

At 06:21 PM 12/29/98 -0800, Andrew Plato wrote:
>"It's difficult to rank technical writers along
>> with Engineers, because people who go into tech writing and QA are
>> people who tried to be Engineers and failed.

Andrew, I'm hard pressed to remember a more inflamatory statement
sent to this list, and I've been here a /long/ time. /Most/ people
go into tech writing because they care about the user and the
communication process. Some of us actually find the development
process rather boring.

>> Also, Engineers can keep learning and advancing
>> in their field, but technical writers have no
>> where to go or new things to learn."
>This is essentially true. Tech writing has not changed much in the
>past 10 years...apart from a few new
>tools, on-line help, and some interactive medias...
>In comparison, software design and development has dramatically
>changed in the past 10 years. Entire new languages have risen and
>fallen in the past 10 years. Moreover, the technologies are radically

Smalltalk, and with it the complete set of object-oriented concepts,
appeared in the development community in the early 1980s. And although
C++ (just a kludge to OO, still plain old C) and Java have become the
languages du jour, and OO concepts have "revolutionized" the software
industry, programmers are still using the same old for/next and
do/while constructs we learned in Basic.

In technical writing, we're still using the same old nouns, verbs, and
adjectives we used in the old days. Since the 1980s, however, technical
writing has made the switch from passive to active voice and from third
to second person. It has developed and matured documentation theories
and formulas like minimalism, modularism, and information mapping. It
has applied cognitive science and information design principles to the
presentation of information on paper and on screen... No, you're right.
Nothing has changed in writing in the last 10 years. Software developers
have had /much/ more to cope with. 'scuze me!

>When tech writing becomes a profession focused on technology and
>content maybe then the perceptions of co-workers and managers will
>change. Until then, all I can say is "deal with it." This is why I
>left tech writing for consulting.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out, darlin'!
Obviously, your skills of observation don't nearly qualify you for
the job of tech writer.

-Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com

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

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