Re: Programmer/Writer?

Subject: Re: Programmer/Writer?
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999 19:15:49 -0700 (PDT)

Oh this is good.

> I tried to keep my mouth shut during this discussion thread, but I can no
> longer do so. The main thing that bothers me about this thread is that it is
> sounding like some companies want technical writers to be good at
> everything, including programming. IMHO, I believe that our profession does
> not allow us to be jack of all trades.

BUZZZZT Sorry, wrong answer. The correct answer is your profession absolutely
demands you be a jack of all trades. Sorry, tech writing is not the same as
being a doctor. (Unless you consider proctology. I sure have to deal with a
lot of a**holes as a tech writer.) There are few, if any specialists. And with
tech writing being outsourced at more and more companies - being a jack of all
trades is not merely a nice idea - it makes the difference between $15 an hour
at Conglomo Personnel Processing Inc. and $70 and hour at a high-caliber
consulting company.

> A person can be an awesome writer, or
> an awesome programmer, but a person cannot be awesome at both.

Say what? Uhhh, this is absolutely untrue. Many people, myself included, are
good writers and good programmers. A motivated, intelligent person can be
awesome at ANYTHING.

> The written
> word is a science and takes time, practice, and skill to be a good writer,
> which cannot occur when one is programming, doing graphics, or what have
> you. When I interviewed for this job, (as well as all interviews I went on
> in the last several months)

Oh, stop, I am going to bust into tears: the tender art of writing.
Tech writing is a trade. We're not talking about being the next Emerson. The
written word takes brains, practice, and experience to be a good writer. The
more you know the better writer you become. Therefore, the more programming,
graphics, etc. you know the better writer you become.

> I made it extremely clear that I was a writer
> first and foremost and that I had no interest in programming, graphics
> (beyond basic screen shots), acting as a "note taker" in meetings, and the
> like.

Congratulations, you have effectively made yourself a permanent "junior" level

I am reluctant to pick on a single person here, but the author of this post is
so resoundingly off-base I am amazed he has a job at all.

Technical writing is writing about TECHNICAL things. If you don't have a firm,
solid grasp of the technology you are documenting you are essentially useless
as a technical writer. Now, you can stomp your feet and scream to heaven that
this is not so - but it is. It is totally, utterly impossible to write in an
intelligent manner if you do not understand what you are writing about.

Companies are beginning to ask for Programmer / Writers because they are sick
and tired of hiring smug, obsessive, incompetent "I ONLY write" type writers.
They want writers who have the brains to handle complex, intricate technical
issues. Sorry, but there is a reason the word TECHNICAL is attached to your

I am always suspicious of people who are vehement in their desire to remain
ignorant. I'm sorry but this profession is not the place for people who do not
enjoy learning new things. I don't do tech writing because it is the most
exciting career, I do it because I adore the process of figuring out some new
pile of wires and then telling people how it works.

If you're one of the "I am ONLY a writer" types, then be prepared to remain
forever on the lower paying rungs of this profession. Unless you work at some
gargantuan company with 100 billion rules and mandatory promotions for showing
up every day, you're career is very limited.

Andrew "More Squirrels" Plato

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Bid and sell for free at

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