Quality of Technical Communicators, "Degreed" or not

Subject: Quality of Technical Communicators, "Degreed" or not
From: Michael Uhl <uhl -at- VISLAB -dot- EPA -dot- GOV>
Date: Fri, 14 Jul 1995 11:49:39 -0400

Last year, I was the job bank manager for my STC chapter. I was surprised,
though not shocked, at how poorly some technical communicators and
wannabes constructed their resumes and cover letters. There was little
correlation between years of professional experience and quality. Recent
college graduates produced stuff that was aesthetically more pleasing, but
the quality of content was just as uneven as for older graduates and those
who did not attend college (a very small minority).

Now I am the newsletter editor and I am shocked at the quality of what
some people send me for publication. Mind you, some is very good. But
"very good" is what I expect from professional writers. Two aspects of
the writing stand out when I read the bad stuff people send me: (1) they
fail to consider the audience, and (2) concise and to-the-point is a
concept that eludes them. In general, their grammar and spelling are

The well written articles and well designed resumes come from people
who work at places where they are intellectually challenged and deal
with technological changes on a regular basis. People who've allowed
themselves to stagnate in a position for a decade or more typically
lose their skills, wills to improve, and an awareness of the
professional world outside their department, divison, or company.

We can all draw many conclusions from my experiences, but the one I want
you take with you today is that Arlen Walker is absolutely right when he
says that the proof of professional competency is in the writing itself.
Forget the degrees and years of experience; they count for very little.

Additional qualities in a professional communicator that also provide good
indicators of ability: curiosity, a passion for reading, a passion for
language, enthusiasm in learning new things and applying what is learned,
and the will to continuously improve the communication process.

Being a great technical communicator involves much more than being able
to write well; but if you're a poor writer, choose a different


Michael Andrew Uhl Internet: uhl -at- vislab -dot- epa -dot- gov
Lead Technical Writer Compuserve: 72624,2155
Scientific Visualization Center (SVC) & Phone: (919) 541-4283 [W]
National Environmental Fax: (919) 361-9464 [H]
Supercomputing Center (NESC) ftp site: ftp.nesc.epa.gov
EPA/Martin Marietta Technical Services Inc.
79 Alexander Drive MD 24/4201-2
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

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