RE: Improving colleagues' writing skills

Subject: RE: Improving colleagues' writing skills
From: "Ronica Roth" <rroth -at- exactis -dot- com>
To: "'Lean Ni Chuilleanain'" <lnc -at- nua -dot- ie>, "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1999 16:06:26 -0700

> To what extent is it any of my business how well my colleagues write?

I, too, would like to see everyone write better, so we put a better face to
our clients. And recently I witnessed a fellow TW struggle with frustration
in trying to convince a non-TW (and non-tech) colleague that a doc should be
more consistent, be grammatically correct, etc. I didn't know how to tell
him tactfully, either, nor how to make these "little" things seem important
in the face of a senior management team eager to get the darn thing

Having said that, a couple thoughts:

+ Luckily, I love to copyedit and am quite fast at it. At this point...when
this company still has relatively little documentation and a loose
structure...I'm happy to "fix" things before they go out.

+ I am already learning to control my impulses. Some docs really aren't
worth sweating over. Internal developer docs, for example. They need only to
be useful to the audience. I'll save my campaign for external stuff, or
internal docs going to whole company.

+ Although I want everyone to write better, I am not a teacher (at least,
not paid to be one). I must admit there is only so much I can do. The other
TW and I do plan to get management to support us creating a style guide,
along with some templates. Some atrocities will be highlighted/corrected in
that guide.

+ Meanwhile, I'm slowly demonstrating to my colleagues that I am an expert
in the written word and that this is a good thing for our company. If they
don't want to learn it, at least they're learning to respect it.

+ Look at the arguments we have here about style. Even those of us who care
passionately about the written word cannot agree on many points, with some
of us arguing for conventions that make others of us cringe. This very fact
reminds me to stop worrying so much about some of what I see in the writings
of others (some of which things would otherwise send me into
tirades...tirades that will win me no friends nor "add value" to the

+ Having said that, when a colleague asks me to take a look at something,
sometimes I do subtle teaching by using Word's Track Changes feature, rather
than just fixing the doc outright. Maybe, just maybe, they'll see the errors
of their ways....Probably not, but I feel MUCH better, and they're not
offended. Note: only works for word users who can handle it.

My 2 cents, and happy for a diversion on deadline.

Ronica Roth
Technical Writer, Inc.
rroth -at- exactis -dot- com

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