Re: Math vs. writing, what it takes, and de-lurking

Subject: Re: Math vs. writing, what it takes, and de-lurking
From: Michael Keene <MKEENE -at- UTKVX -dot- UTK -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 10 Nov 1994 13:41:48 -0500

In the spirit of de-lurking, let me respond to three threads at once:

As to whether it takes math/science or communication ability to be good
at technical communication, I think once I get beyond saying "Both" I
come down on the side of communication. People I talk with and work with
generally seem to have found it easier to give a communicator the
math/science knowledge required to do a particular task than it is to
give a math/science specialist the communication ability. In fact, I
think both can be taught, generally in a fairly straightforward way.
What can't be taught, I think, is the "soft" skills--an attitude of
curiosity, the courage to play The Emperor's New Clothes Game ("Excuse
me, but this section here doesn't make any sense to me. Am I missing
something?"), and at least a little passion for reading and writing.

In terms of background, when I entered college (back in the evil old
post-Sputnik days of '65) I had to choose whether to do English, some
form of math/science, or music. Each was an option, although clearly at
some point I might have bombed out of any of them. I chose English not
because I loved writing (that came much later) but because I loved
reading. I came to regret giving up music and have since put in lots of
time (to no great avail) trying to make up for 25 years of just
whistling. I think the fact that I wound up in technical communication
was exactly because I was looking, albeit not consciously, for a way to
get back into the math/science world a little bit. Of course I had some
serious help from Gordon Mills and Merrill Whitburn, too.

Mike Keene
mkeene -at- utkvx -dot- utk -dot- edu

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