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: John Nesbit <janesbit -at- HOTMAIL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 09:40:00 PST

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.
...

I never set out to be a technical writer.
I never ever have taken a course in technical writing.
I was an English major many years ago at the University of Illinois
with emphasis on American literature, a rhetoric minor, and sufficient
education courses to teach at the secondary level.
During my last couple years of teaching, I got into using the Internet
for instruction and became familiar with the computer and taught myself
HTML to design online lessons. I am still learning new programs, mostly
in the web page design area.
But at age 50 I could early retire from my pitifully paying teaching
job to receive a pitiful pension to supplement whatever else I did.
So, I moved to Phoenix and ended up as a technical writer for a startup
computer company that is looking to carve a niche in the education
community.
I still don't understand the distinction some people place on technical
writing vs. common sense expository writing where you need to address a
specific audience. I probably put a little more humor and use metaphor a
little heavier than straight laced technical writers do, but that's also
due to the intended audience I have.
Any writer with some common sense can adjust to a different audience.
Everything you learn in an English composition class is applicable to
technical writing the way I see it.
John Nesbit


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