Re: There's more to it than grammar

Subject: Re: There's more to it than grammar
From: Scott Miller <smiller -at- PORTAL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 09:20:21 -0800

Despite the seeming irrelevance of the "do we spell-check posts to Techwr-L"
thread, I think there was an interesting issue lurking below which had
something to do with what John Wilson is getting at. To generalize
viciously, I would say that those who see extreme importance in spell
checking posts to Techwr-L are writers who are writers first and foremost,
and who are concerned primarily with writing issues such as 5 Cs and other
trivia, and are therefore potential candidates for missing the entire point
of technical communication, and creating the type of docs that users hate.
On the other hand, those who think that spell-checking a Techwr-L is a
bizarre waste of time are more hip to the fact that writing is just one tool
that we use for the REAL work, which is something along the lines of making
a product usable, as John puts it. This was rather dramatically driven home
to me when I had to create wordless hardware installation sheets. So much
for spelling and grammar.

Anyway, to answer John's question, the first thing I do to make the product
usable is to put myself in the shoes of the user, and find out what they are
trying to accomplish that got them to purchase the product I'm documenting.
At that point, the product I'm documenting is irrelevant, it's the user's
goals that I'm trying to figure out. For example, right now I'm writing
about billing customers, so I have to consider things like what happens if a
customer doesn't pay, pays late, pays too much, pays too little, and so
forth. Then I figure out how to use the product to handle those situations.
Then, I organize the docs around those tasks. Then I start writing.
Somewhere in there, I spell check. But the most important part is finding
the user's goals, and helping the user accomplish them.

- Scott M
smiller -at- portal -dot- com

> So to start the discussion (I hope), here is the beginning of a
> definition.
> A technical writer does not just write manuals. The job title is
> established by usage and should not be taken literally. A technical
> writer
> in this day and age must be someone who tries to make a product usable.
> Manuals may or may not be a means of doing this. How does the writer go
> about making the product usable? What service are you offering? What do
> technical writers do?

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

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