RE: Are these words being used?

Subject: RE: Are these words being used?
From: "Teresa Wittel" <teresa -dot- wittel -at- microchip -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 09 Nov 1999 11:10 -0700

> The point I was trying to make is that we should use the
> users' terms (if these are indeed the users' terms) rather
> than substituting our own preference. And to determine
> whether they are the users' terms, we have to do user and
> task analysis. <George>

> ... it does not mean that shipability and orderability should be
> used. Just because people coin new words to meet their needs,
> doesn't mean that anyone could make up any word and say that it
> is a "proper" word. <snip> I don't believe that these two words
> are going to make it into the books. <Kathi>

OK, maybe I'm oversimplifying here, but these two emails seem to
capture the essence of the disagreement that seems to permeate much of
the field. The poor writer who started this thread must think we're all
crazy! In fact, we're all offering great advice from our own personal
experiences. I think most everyone who cares about their work has
strong opinions on what has made them successful. However, what works
well in one environment might be disastrous in the other.

Some technical writers are not expected to understand the technical
subject very well. They are expected to just clearly translate what
the SME says under tight deadlines with little accountability. Others
are expected to understand the subject almost as well as "the
experts"; they are generally given more time to study the product,
analyze the audience, and are held accountable for the content of the
manual. These two environments differ radically and writers from each
environment usually offer their opinions on this listserv (without
identifying their bias).

Jargon is a great example, because we are always arguing over it.
Those who are more unfamiliar with the subject and writing user guides
for beginners (rightfully) tend to favor the no jargon approach. Those
who are practically SME's themselves and are writing for a more
experienced audience (rightfully) favor using jargon familiar to that

Guess everyone has figured out where this is leading by now. When you
offer comments on the listserv, it would be helpful to know what type
of environment you are used to working in, because your environmental
experience has influenced your opinions heavily.

I, for instance (without a strong understanding of the warehouse
audience), would need some valid basis for using "shippability" rather
than other perfectly acceptable words, such as "shippable" or
"suitability for shipment". If this was a point of contention between
me and a SME, I would investigate other sources, including
audience/task anlysis (if time allows) and other warehouse manuals,
before I used such an odd term. If my investigation showed the term
was used frequently, I would acquiesce gracefully.

BTW, I'm currently working in an environment where I'm not expected to
understand the content of the manuals, but I still check those
engineers' claims against established style guides, such as the IEEE
Style Guide, the MS Style Guide, and even the Chicago Manual of Style.

Just my $0.02 ...

Teresa Wittel <who has worked in both environments>
Sr. Technical Writer
Microchip Technology Inc.

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