Re: Value of technical writers

Subject: Re: Value of technical writers
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 31 Dec 1998 11:52:40 -0800

Susan W. Gallagher wrote:

> /Most/ people go into tech writing because they care about the user and the
> communication process.

Susan, I must take issue with the above statement. In my (rather considerable)
experience, people go into technical writing because they find they can do
something that pays well with a fundamental ability to write. They may or may
not have an affinity for things technical going into the job; more often than
not, technical talent develops along the way.That is not to say that there have
been those who CHOSE technical writing because it involved both writing and
technology, things that the person loved. However, it's been my experience
that the major talent is writing, not technology, that gets one into technical
writing in the first place.

> >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.

In defense of Andrew, he has BEEN a technical writer. He has 'graduated' to the
point of hiring and placing technical writers, and has become a consultant
because he too discovered that technical writing was only one facet of the
types of problems technical companies need help with. Plus, of course, he
discovered that solving other kinds of technical problems pays better, in
general, than technical writing.

Andrew has, as do a number of others of us on this board, the perspective of
someone who sees technical writing and its affiliated tasks as only part of the
solution. My own perspective is that technical writing will continue to
evolve, as it has over the last decade (remember that online help only became
an expected part of the documentation deliverable set about two or three years
ago), and that the tasks assigned to technical writers will continue to change
as tools and expectations change. For all we know, the title "technical
writer" may no longer exist ten years from now, and people will be laughing
nostalgically at the idea of paper manuals. Or not.

Andrew is highly qualified to be a technical writer. In fact, he's probably
over-qualified, and as such would not be a good candidate for a direct-hire
position in someone else's organization. Neither would I. He may be wrong
about a lot of things, but he's right-on when it comes to some observations
about the current world of technical writing.

Elna Tymes, president
Los Trancos Systems

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