RE: Programmer/Writer?

Subject: RE: Programmer/Writer?
From: Kevin Feeman <Kevin -dot- Feeman -at- micromass -dot- com>
To: "'techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com'" <techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 08:40:50 -0400

David Castro wrote:

> However, saying that your way is the Only Way to become a Good Writer
paints with a very broad brush. Earlier today, I posted that >I'd *like* to
find one of those writer/programmer jobs, because I have different joys: I
love writing, and I love programming (I wrote >an application--Digester's
Reader--especially for members of this mailing list, in fact). Yes, they
require distinctly different skill sets, >but they're not mutually
exclusive, by any stretch of the imagination.

You are absolutely right. I guess I did generalize quite a bit. I just
firmly believe that one needs to focus on the audience. If your audience is
programmers, then you should know some programming. I just don't think that
a writer can do both. I was making assumptions that wanting to be a
programmer/writer meant one needed to be a programmer to be a writer, which
is untrue, IMHO. I was thinking on the lines that the jobs you were
referring to required the writer to write programs and write user manuals,
which even though they do relate to a high degree, each job is a job on its
own. That is why there are strictly *writer* jobs and strictly *software
programmer* jobs in the paper every week.

> In fact, I use both of those skill sets when I write the documentation at
my current job. Our product is a software development tool, so my audience
is programmers. True, I don't tell them the underlying workings of *our*
tool, except when it makes a task clearer for them, but I still use my
programming skills when creating code samples, or telling them why they must
do something in a certain manner.

> What with XML, JavaScript, online help macros, HTML coding, and finding
workarounds to the bugs in the programs we use, we >have to use much more
than our writing skills. Which is why, as Andrew Plato likes to emphasize,
it is important that we not
> be glorified typists. We need to know more than just how to make a
sentence active, or how to spell the newest buzzwords. We have >to be able
to interact with the programmers on a level that makes them comfortable
telling us why they did something a certain way. >That requires knowing
enough about programming to sling the lingo, or at least how to persuade
them to put it in layman's terms
> without losing the meaning, and without losing their respect.

True, how true. I didn't want to give the impression that I am a "glorified
typist." I do know HTML, online help, page design, template building,
documentation processes, and all that stuff that we do which I left out when
I said technical writers should be writers first. I agree that interaction,
interpersonal skills, and being able to "sling the lingo" goes along with
writing. I just wanted to say that to be a good writer doesn't necessarily
mean that one has to be a programmer or have those skills, especially if you
are writing for the end user and a GUI.

Let the flames burn bright tonight!!!!

Kevin Feeman
Technical Publications Manager
MicroMass Communications Inc. <>
(919) 851-3182 Ext. 3105
kevin -dot- feeman -at- micromass -dot- com

> -David Castro
> techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
> thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com -dot-
> Wow. Two posts in one day. I don't think I've been this vocal
> in quite some
> time! :-)
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