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No. What I was trying to say (and not very well - which is making me
question my career choice), is that, by not being an expert, I tend to
explain differently. I don't make the assumptions that, say, an engineer
might make about his audience. I've seen manuals written by the designer
that are so difficult to understand, that it's not worth the effort.
They write about the subject like they think about it... Not like
they're trying to teach someone else.
Maybe that's the other thing with what I said. By degree, I'm a teacher.
By personality, I've been a teacher as far back as I can remember... So
I tend to think that way when I'm writing.
If you want to talk about music theory with me, I can get all technical
and use all the hoity-toity terminology, but if you want to understand
it, I need to maybe come down a few notches.
The original statement I made was meant to be something along the lines
of not having to be an expert in the field in order to learn and then
write about it.
From: techwr-l-bounces+mschmidt=weathercentral -dot- tv -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+mschmidt=weathercentral -dot- tv -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com]
On Behalf Of Combs, Richard
Sent: Wednesday, August 09, 2006 12:11 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Breaking into the tech writing job market
Mike Schmidt wrote:
> Ignorance isn't the issue. By having someone show you, the writer,
> something you didn't previously understand, you are now no longer
> ignorant. You now understand it. But, you are still not necessarily an
> expert and you may tend to write it on a level more apt to appeal to
> someone else (who also may not be an expert).
You're right, you don't have to have a degree in a field or be an
"expert" to write about it. But you *do* have to *understand* what
you're writing about! You may start out ignorant and have to _acquire_
that understanding, but that understanding is essential to communicating
I think we're in violent agreement on that part. ;-)
Where we differ is that you think being a subject-matter novice --
having just acquired the bare minimum knowledge -- makes you better able
to write for other novices. I think that being a tech-writing expert
gives you that ability, not being a subject-matter novice.
Having _more_ than the bare minimum of knowledge enables you to write
for a wider range of audiences, and enables you to decide where to draw
the line between novice-level and intermediate-level information. If you
only know the bare minimum, then you've let your teacher decide what's
novice-level and what's not.
But then, I share this attitude:
"There is nothing so minute or inconsiderable that I would not rather
know it than not know it."
-- Samuel Johnson
Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom