Re: Writing is a talent

Subject: Re: Writing is a talent
From: "W. Michaels" <stinky5 -at- TELEPORT -dot- COM>
Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 00:39:34 -0700

Tamara writes:
>Ed makes a really good point. As one of the posters who got a few
>non-engineer Techwhirlers going on this subject, I guess I should qualify my
>statements. I have had to update far too many manuals done by people who
>thought they didn't need to know (or didn't have time to explore) the
>subject matter very deeply. When I reconsider those experiences, the messes
>were usually created by individuals I wouldn't have put in the top 20% of an
>engineering group OR a writing group.
or "created by" the bloke who hired those screw-ups?
>I know from my own limited experience that with a solid working knowledge of
>engineering disciplines, programming languages and basic machine
>architecture, and other assorted areas, I have been able to produce doco of
>a higher quality than if I did not understand these areas. How do I define
>higher quality? By talking to my clients (internal as well as external)!
>I've got letters and reviews to back that one up.

>Of COURSE there are marvelous writers out there who don't have formal
>training in programming or electrical wiring. But I'll bet that, if the
>truth were known, those really good writers have picked up quite a few of
>the principles in their subject areas along the way. I'll bet they
>understand the products they write about at a level beyond "what you see on
>the screen."

>Tamara Peters
>tamara -dot- peters -at- lawson -dot- com
... this is not a flame ...
I thought your first response to this thread was a joke. Really. You made
assumptions that "good" technical writers write the kind of manuals that
*you* write (apparently some highly specialized something-or-other). I
understand your frustration in being brought into a previously botch-up
assignment. But my experience with this hasn't been a lack of knowledge of
the subject, but a lack of knowledge in basic procedure writing, simple
explanations, and all the other basics involved in tech writing.

I do not have an engineering degree, and I do not need one; nor do I need to
know how to assemble a motor. :) I write software manuals for users with a
sixth grade reading level. They do not need to or want to know the innards
of this software. And neither do I. I understand what the functions control,
and I can explain it simply.

I am trained in technical writing. I know how to use software and know how
to show others how to use it. I wouldn't try to write manuals that require
technical information that I didn't understand. And I would hope an employer
would spot my fraud if I tried!

Technical writing doesn't mean writing only about engineering technology,
many tech writers are in the medical fields or in science. It all depends on
the audience, doesn't it?

I noted the pride you take in your work. I can relate. I take pride in mine
work too. I work very carefully documenting everything I know might occur to
the user. And take care to organize the material in a coherent manner, etc. etc.

... this was not a flame ...

... can we finally put an end to this maddening thread ... ?

"We're about as similar as...two completely dis-similar things... in a pod."
--BA III or GF?

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