RE: Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices"

Subject: RE: Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices"
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 13:32:35 -0500

> As a technical communicator in the software industry, I rely heavily on
> resources such as this listserv, STC and ACM SIGDOC publications, books by
> tech writing gurus (JoAnn Hackos, William Horton, Karen Schriver), etc. to
> make sure I'm on the right track and not missing out on better ways to
> create documentation.
I've never read a single one. I'd rather blaze my own path. You
can never excel if you follow someone else ;^). By the way, what's ACM?

> But I keep running into technical communicators who, generally because
> they "fell into" the field, have no knowledge of these resources and who
> seem
> to prefer to make up their profession and their documents as they go.
Hey, (S)he's describing me.

> While
> these folks are plenty smart, mean well, and have expertise to share,
> their documents often show a lack of exposure to the "standards" or "best
> practices" of the field.
Baaaa! Baaaa! Sorry, feeling a bit sheepish!

> (Not that any two tech writers could ever
> completely agree on what the standards are, but there is at least some
> consensus on some issues.) Also, maybe because these tech writers invented
> their work without help from outside sources, they feel great ownership of
> their work and can be highly defensive toward suggestions for improvement.
> Does anybody out there have thoughts or advice on how to build a good
> working relationship with such a colleague, while also encouraging them to
> open up to the standards and best practices of the field, as described and
> discussed in the major resources of the field (STC and ACM pubs, TECHWR-L,
> etc.)?
Do you mean, "Does anybody know how to squelch innovation and
creativity and make them fit a one-size-fits-all mode?" Writing a book on
technical writing does not automatically make the author a philosopher-king.
Following a prescription for standardizing writing based on a book does
nothing to instill the intangibles that separate writers who progress in the
field and those that just follow standards. Again, no one develops creative
solutions and approaches by staying in line with the other sheep.

> I don't want to be griping or to start a gripe session here. I do want to
> hear others' perspectives and suggestions. For me, this is a difficult,
> serious situation, and I welcome input.
> Anonymous
My suggestion, leave the other writer alone. Let your work prove superior
or inferior to their's.


Michael Wing (mailto:mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com)
Staff Writer/ Web Applications Developer
Intergraph Corporation; Huntsville, Alabama

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