Re: Tech Writer - Why called such?

Subject: Re: Tech Writer - Why called such?
From: "Tom Murrell" <tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: Anthony Markatos <tonymar -at- hotmail -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 09 Nov 1999 19:24:59 -0500

Tony Markatos asks:

> Why are we called Technical Writers? Technology is implementation; it is
> about design; it is about HOW the product works.
> Our primary job is not to write about HOW the product works. It is convey
> understanding of essential end user tasks accomplished with the product and
> how those tasks interrelate. It is, in other words, conveying understanding
> of WHAT the product does to help the user achieve his/her business goals.
> We may properly digress from the WHAT and discuss the HOW, but all effective
> organization is based on the WHAT.
> How can we be viewed as "adding value" instead of "a necessary cost of doing
> business" if something as basic as our agreed upon title is so out-of-wack?

Tony, I think there are at least two reasons why we are called Technical
Writers. Yes, we explain the WHAT about technology. We also explain the
HOW and the WHY and even the WHERE, and we explain all of this to the WHO,
the readers who need to know the information for a variety of reasons
(another WHY). It can be a logical fallacy to trap yourself in the
etymology of a word.

It can also be a mistake in a field as varied as ours to say that you know
enough to know all of what someone who is called a Technical Writer does.
Nor do I think it is necessarily a digression to move from the WHAT to other
aspects of the subject. Sometimes the WHAT cannot be properly understood if
the WHY and the HOW are not explained first.

The second reason I would cite for why we're called Technical Writers
illustrates another feature of the English language. Simply put, sometimes
English is weird. We're called Technical Writers because that's what we're
called. I drive on the parkway and park in the driveway, just to cite a
humorous example.

Tom Murrell

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