TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Re: Engineers, writers, Queen Victoria and the vapors
Subject:Re: Engineers, writers, Queen Victoria and the vapors From:Robert Phillips <robnp -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU> Date:Fri, 12 May 1995 20:45:49 GMT
Writan Consulting (writan -at- iinet -dot- net -dot- au) wrote:
: 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.
I agree and our experiences (yours and mine) are similar. I have three
key phrases for all my work:
There is no such thing as a dumb question
Tell it to your mother (that is, the same style and language)
If I do not understand it, my audience might not either
Sure, sure, there are times and places etc etc, but for the most part,
they hold true. Remembering all the questions you have when you first
confront a new writing task is one of the most useful source tools of
all. Most of the questions will have been answered in a few miniutes,
but they are the same questions the audience will have. These are the
questions the Engineers seldom remember or even had to ask.