Farewell to List (and answers to questions that have forever plag ued Techwriting)

Subject: Farewell to List (and answers to questions that have forever plag ued Techwriting)
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 1999 13:37:56 -0600


I have recently graduated from technical writing to pre-sales (where I will
be building pilot projects for our internet-based mapping products). It is
a time in my career to go "front line". Technical Writing has been a fine
career, but I have always had much more interest in the technical rather
than the writing. Actually, I could never get into those retentive
arguments that many writers are so found of (fonts, caption placements,
spaces after periods, and so forth). To me, it's like arguing over the
color of the car without ever examining the engine.

I've been an active list member for almost 5 years. Some topics grabbed my
attention and participation (arguments on certification, online vs. print,
industry trends, and so forth). Most topics target a niche audience (such
as putting links in PDFs) or solicit troubleshooting guidelines for tools
(how can I get Robohelp to ...). Occasionally, the topics are downright
ridiculous (see the awards, below).

In parting I would like to do two things: 1) answer those questions that
have plagued writers since chisel was first put to stone and 2) hand out
some personal awards.

Answers to Questions:

1) Two spaces after a period.
2) MSWord over FrameMaker - for it's online flexibility (does anyone still
produce those tree-killing printed manuals?)
3) We should be called ..... Technical Writers ..... not Information
Developers, nor Technical Communicators, nor Secretaries
4) Technical Writers will never be valued at the same level as Engineers,
Scientists, and Programmers. Industry views those professionals as having
'hard' skills, whereas, Technical Writers are viewed as having 'soft'
skills. Hard skill jobs directly develop the ideas that create sellable
products. All other jobs support them. Whining will not change this
5) Is technical writing a profession, a science, or what? Answer: It's a
craft. Much like cabinet making. Everyone knows how to use a saw and a
hammer, but few have the craftsmanship to make a dinette. Likewise,
everyone thinks that they can write, but few have the craftsmanship to write
clear, concise, and complete material.
6) Just say NO to certification.
7) Should a writer be more technical or more of a writer? Answer, both.
They are not mutually exclusive skills. Though it is my opinion that it is
easier to teach a technical person to write than it is to teach a writer to
be technical.

Awards (tongue-in-cheek):

* Best Topic (for arguments) - Should Technical Writers be certified?
* Best Topic (information) - What is XML?

* Most Inane topic - A tie between "should I have an empty chair in my
office' and "What cartoon character would make a good mascot for Technical

* TechWR-L person I'd most like to meet to take to dinner (my treat) -
Arlen Walker
* TechWR-L person I'd most like to meet in order to dump dinner over
his head - Tim Altom
* Favorite person to argue with - Documania (haven't seen a post from
her in a while, though)

* Some of the TechWR-L people whose posts I'll read automatically
(regardless of topic): Arlen Walker, Mark Baker, Jane Goodman, Elna Thymes,
Michael Uhl, and David Castro

* TechWR-L people whose posts make me wince (initials only): JDH, MI,
BS, and AM

Take care,

Michael Wing

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