Re[2]: What employers think about technical writers

Subject: Re[2]: What employers think about technical writers
From: Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- PROTEON -dot- COM
Date: Tue, 22 Feb 1994 08:56:00 EST

Jim Grey notes:

"So of course they'll be likely to undervalue jobs only tangential to the main

Except they only think it's tangential. I don't know how much time I spent at
my last company trying to prove to them that good documentation is PART of the
product, not a sideline.

I think it's starting to get through to the industry in general. Users are sick
of having to call tech support because the manual isn't good enough (which is
because either a) a good writer wasn't given enough time to do a good job, or b)
the company hired a not-so-great, but cheap, technical writer). One of the
chief advantages of manual over tech support is that the manual is available 24
hours a day. If you prove to management how much cheaper that manual is than
staffing a hotline 24 hours a day, suddenly the being to see a glimmer of the

I was also able to prove that regular-hours hotline calls (and the hostility
thereof) decreased after I released a good version of the manual.

My current company learned this lesson themselves the hard way -- they lost
sales because the manual was written in Germlish (by a German engineer in
English, and I use that last word loosely). Unfortunately, they're closing the
SanDag office, so their insight is of little further use to ME, but it bodes
well for our profession, I think.

One of my clients has designed an end-user product that is ridiculously simple
to use, but they would not release it until I could prepare a manual TO MY
STANDARDS, because they knew that their users wanted and needed a BOOK to help

So it's getting better. But we need to keep hammering on the idea that the doc
set is part of the product, not a "freebie" that the company added on because
they felt generous and benevolent.

Bonni Graham |
Technical Writer | Most software is run by
Easel Corporation, ENFIN Technology Lab | confused users acting on
Bonni_Graham_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com | incorrect and incomplete
President, San Diego STC | information, doing things
| the designer never expected.
NOTE: apparently my email address needs |
to be typed exactly as it appears here, | --Paul Heckel, quoted
punctuation and all, or the system gets | by William Horton
upset. |

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