Re: Knowledge of subject matter

Subject: Re: Knowledge of subject matter
From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2004 22:34:04 -0800

----- Original Message -----
From: "Edwin Dahlquist" <Edwin -dot- Dahlquist -at- asu -dot- edu>
> Interesting comment, but "knowledge of the subject matter" is a sticky point.
> Most current university offerings, both graduate and undergraduate, tend to
> emphasize training generalists for TW. The emphasis is on the principles,
> rather than on subject matter, the theory being that TWs represent end users
> more than SMEs and that representation may actually be hindered by an
> of subject matter knowledge. (I am not advocating this view, just stating it).

Good thing, too. It's only a "sticky point" for the universities and the
souls who come out of them expecting to make a living as technical writers.
In the real world, it doesn't matter how much of an education you have in "the
principles," without subject matter knowledge or the demonstrated ability to
acquire it, your resume isn't getting past the first level screening

> In fact, a number of TWs indicate that subject matter expertise hinders their
> ability to write to the level of the end user; my question is usually "what if
> the end user is an electrical engineer or a biotechnologist?"

The only thing that hinders any writer's ability to write to the level of any
user is a lack of understanding of the end user or the ability to acquire it.

> In short, I agree with Andrew--I think the emphasis should be on "technical"
> rather than "writer," and that there are only so many jobs available to write
> assembly instructions for exercycles, or whatever. From that perspective, a BS
> in Biology or Biotech is almost a mandatory minimal credential for writing in
> those fields, just as a BS in CSc or CIS is a big help in documenting software
> and other computer related activities

I'm a bit more flexible in my requirements (and I've managed publications in
both the fields you mention above). A BS in most any flavor of science or
engineering demonstrates the ability to acquire technical knowledge. Three
to five years of working experience as a technical writer with a relatively
portfolio of past work and good references suggests an ability to acquire an
understanding of end users. After that, all the usual candidate evaluation

Gene Kim-Eng

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Knowledge of subject matter: From: Edwin Dahlquist

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