Re: Engineers, writers, Queen Victoria and the vapors

Subject: Re: Engineers, writers, Queen Victoria and the vapors
From: Writan Consulting <writan -at- IINET -dot- NET -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 13:51:21 GMT

Nancy Marie Ott <ott -at- ansoft -dot- com> wrote:

> I am an engineer and a writer, and I don't see what the controversy is
> about. Those who claim that you can pick up either discipline simply
> by taking a few classes are missing the point. The most important
> skill for a technical writer is knowing how to learn ... regarless of
> whether you start out with an engineering degree or a writing degree.
> My engineering background has been an immense asset, but my writing
> skills have been equally important.

> - nancy

I'm a self-taught Australian Tech Writer with a BA/English & Linguistics.
Until recently, you couldn't study tech writing at Uni here -
now there are a few courses offering single units. This means most of
us survive on talent alone - and learning from textbooks and groups like

I have documented all sorts of stuff - accounting packages, electronic
warfare, an adoption information system (post adoption), stores and
manufacturing systems, a milk vendor's delivery system, and I'm
currently working on an Image Processing system. I knew stuff-all
about the business practices of most of these guys before I documented
their stuff. I know heaps now... and in many cases I have come up with
new ideas. You can't expect to hire someone who knows exactly how your
weird end of the world functions, *and* can write clearly. In fact,
sometimes knowing too much about the topic can lead to making assumptions
about the audience's knowledge based on your own. It's easy to forget
what it's like to be confronted with something you know nothing about
when you have spent a lifetime doing it.


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