RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market

Subject: RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2006 10:19:13 -0600

Gene Kim-Eng wrote:

> My experience has been that most over-written documentation
> is the result of writers not having sufficient technical
> knowledge of the product and its users' needs to be able to
> look at input received from developers with a critical eye
> toward what the user is really going to require for a
> specific operation and cut out or move what is unnecessary.

Precisely. There was a time in my tech writing career when I'd: (1) get
highly technical material from an SME; (2) not really understand what it
said because I didn't know much about the subject; (3) assume that it
would make sense to someone who knew more about the subject; (3) shrug
and "fix" the writing, and call it done.

The assumption in step (3) was almost always false, and that crap was
usually just as incomprehensible to experts in the field as it was to
me. I now know that I can't clearly communicate something without
understanding it myself first.

Ignorance of the subject matter is *never* an advantage. John P. is
correct: if you're ignorant of your subject, you can *only* write like a
novice; if you're knowledgeable of your subject _and_ a skilled tech
writer, you can write (knowledgeably) *for* a novice -- as well as for
an expert, or someone in between.

Allow me to reprise a couple of choice quotes from a ghost of the
Techwr-l past:

"You cannot, under any circumstances, produce intelligent and useful
documentation if you don't understand the content."

"...Ignorance is not a valuable commodity regardless of how you spin it.
You don't impress people with your astounding ability to NOT understand

-- Andrew Plato


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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