Knowledge of subject matter

Subject: Knowledge of subject matter
From: Jay -dot- Malone -at- ser -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 2004 16:38:09 -0500

Hmm. My UnfairSweepingGeneralizationO-Meter (USGOM) has gone off.

*Some* universities stink. Some are just a way to postpone entry into the
Real World for another four sweet years. But this statement reminds me of
the attitude that was so common in journalism for a while -- that college
graduates cannot be good reporters. And that is oh so not true. Likewise, it
is also not true that all graduates of TW programs are wimps. (I'm neither.)

A technical writer needs four skills: The ability to write, the ability to
think critically and logically, the ability to learn new stuff very, very
quickly with minimal hand-holding, and the ability to take criticism. You
can get that in school, and you can get that in math/science. You can get it
in the Department of Humanities. You can get it on your own. It's entirely
possible to emerge from the Math Department a blithering doofus. Not that I
know anyone like that.

You don't have have deep subject-matter knowledge when you start a job, but
you should be able to get it real quick. IMO, that's part of the fun.

If you're doing your own DTP, you also need design skills. There is nothing
wrong with good-looking documents. But if it's nothing *but* pretty, you're
probably in trouble.

If you want substance, I'm your girl*. But if an employer wants to pay me my
standard rate to prettify their documents, heck, I'll do that too.

Jay* (yes, I'm female) Malone
Independent TW and editor, on-site at SER Solutions in Dulles, VA

Andrew Plato wrote:
<This is why every tech writing program should require students to take
math,science, and at least 1 logic course. Every student should be required
build up a set of strong set of critical thinking skills. Moreover, their
should be ruthlessly analyzed, criticized, and tested. They need to get used
having their work laid bare and criticized.

<Unfortunately, universities don't do this.


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