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RE: flashpoint of the week: editors and writers egos
Subject:RE: flashpoint of the week: editors and writers egos From:"Downing, David" <DavidDowning -at- Users -dot- com> To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com> Date:Tue, 16 Mar 2004 11:52:51 -0500
I'd say you should start by getting as many people as possible on your
side. You said your new boss is sympathetic, which is a good start. Is
there a way for you to solicit feedback from your clients -- which would
prove that they're unhappy with the poorly written documents?
Unfortunately, there's one factor here that I'm not sure you can control
-- how much respect the other folks have for your training and
education. If they understand that your background REALLY means that
you REALLY know more than they do about how some things should be done,
then they'll listen. For example, I have an MS in Library Science and
worked as a technical services librarian before switching careers.
While I was getting my second master's in Technical and Science
Communication, I did some research for one of the professors, and made
some recommendations to him, based on my knowledge of library science,
about how we should proceed and how we should not proceed. Fortunately,
he respected my training and followed my recommendations. If he hadn't
respected my training, he could have pulled rank on me and made me
proceed in a manner I felt was wrong.
There are two other points I would keep in mind.
First, even though there are objective standards of good writing that
must be adhered to, there is also a subjective element, which means that
sometimes it DOES make more sense to go with a gut feeling than to stick
rigidly to the rules. One example concerns the future tense question
that's been discussed recently. We used to have a firm rule that you
always used the present tense, but we later decided to turn that into a
strong preference -- to go ahead and use the future tense when it really
sounded better and seemed to make more sense.
Second, there's a distinction between enforcing standards and belittling
those who fail to conform. I'm not sure how you're coming across to the
other folks involved, but I think you're overall attitude toward them is
going to affect their attitude toward you. If you take the attitude
that "Anybody with any sense would do it the way I'm telling you, you're
gonna arouse hostility, even if you're right.
So what's the best strategy? Do I play nice for awhile, and try to build
trust and respect, while giving time for my new boss to realize how lost
my naysayers are, so that he will eventually back me in pushing for
higher standards? Or do I stick to my principles and edit according to
normal standards, and if they can't handle it, too bad?
5101 Buchan St. H4P 2R9
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