Re: The English Major and the Engineering Student: What can they learn from each other?

Subject: Re: The English Major and the Engineering Student: What can they learn from each other?
From: Ginger Moskowitz <ginger -at- AATECH -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Feb 1999 11:48:56 -0500

Before I went to grad school (in English), I felt as you did, that technical
writing (my career at the time) and the study of English (even composition)
were unrelated. I thought the emphasis on technical writing was on the
"technical" ie., can you create help systems, understand publishing,
understand the technical subject. Almost like an engineer who can punctuate.
:) By the time I finished (I concentrated my MA on rhet/comp), I felt my
study of composition had made me a better writer, actually a better
technical writer. The concepts I was trying to teach to my students (namely,
awareness of your audience, understanding different forums, revision skills,
etc) were skills that good tech writers need as well. Someone on this list
mentioned index generation, for example. Well, how can you generate a
decent index unless you understand your audience and know what they're
looking for? For that matter, how can you generate a useful help file, with
appropriate links and categories, unless you understand who is using it and
what their current level of knowledge is. Audience.

I once used "tech writing" activities to try to emphasize to composition
students the need for audience awareness, such as, present these steps to a
group of people who already know A, B, and C, and then write them for people
who don't know A or C but might know B. Gets pretty tricky. But isn't that
what students are supposed to be doing when they write essays as well? The
principles are really similar.

As for literature, doesn't a lit paper have to undergo the same scrutiny for
content, audience, index/footnote, editing, etc. that a technical manual
does? Don't underemphasize the "writing" in tech writing; English majors
are often (but not always!) good writers because they are practiced at what
they do; the write a lot and they often write for a variety of genres. Like
the programmer who can analyze code, the writer can analyze information and
present it appropriately.


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Steve Amidon [SMTP:Steveami -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET]
> Sent: Sunday, February 14, 1999 2:38 PM
> Subject: The English Major and the Engineering Student: What can they
> learn from each other?
>
> I am a retired military technical writer who is currently working on a
> Ph.D.-in-English. Having worked as a technical writer in both military and
> civilian environments (Engineering generally, as opposed to software
> documentation), I am wondering what it actually is that the English major
> can offer the future technical writer, other than punching a ticket that
> he
> needs punched on his college transcript. Since those who teach technical
> writing at universities often have backgrounds in rhetoric, composition,
> literature, critical theory, and cultural studies, what can these
> disciplines bring to the technical writer?
>
> If you have thoughts, or resources you would recommend I pursue in this
> endeavor, please pass them this way.
>
> Steve Amidon


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



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