Qualifications, illustration and certification

Subject: Qualifications, illustration and certification
From: Averil Strauss <averil -at- LEGENDCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 17:31:15 -0400

>They've aquired this turf during the past decade. (Due in large part to the
>new publishing tools and the persistent pressures to produce more for less.)
>The decisions to use or not to use illustrations (regardless of the skills
>of the writer) depends on the writers DESIRE to use them. I know many
>writers who couldn't draw a pail of water from a well using a two handled
>bucket. Therefore, useful illustrations don't magically appear in their
>minds eye as they begin mentally designing their documents.

This is a problem in general. This is why only a few nuts like me ever
became fans of type-setting oriented word processors as opposed to WYSIWYG.
I find that not only can few people match colours accurately, but they
cannot translate a verbal description into an image mentally. Frankly, I
find it hard to avoid. This difference between people seems to me to be the
best argument for illustrations.

>The writers are in the drivers seat here. If the next maintenance manual you
>receive is 99% words and 1% graphics, you can bet it was produced by a
>writer without an illustration "mind-set", working with a small budget.

>All I'm asking is to keep an open mind. Consider for a moment that if the
>trend continues, we as technical communicators will have allowed external
>forces to creap in and dictate the content of our documents.

>The combination of quality writing, editing, document design, illustration
>and reproduction is the key to successful technical documentation. Is this
>not our common goal?

Certainly. Unfortunately, I personally know technical writers who stay
employed as TWs. They may be competent with a computer, but they cannot
spell reliably or use grammar correctly on any given page. Others are have
problems using the daily tools, such as computer programs. As a result, they
price their services lower or rely on charm, employers who don't speak
English, or other shifts. The result is low-quality manuals.

If you want to talk about certification, I think the primary requirements
are passing

1. A spelling test

2. A grammar test

3. Making a sketch (choice of tool and neatness optional) from a verbal

4. Taking a scribbled, disorganized list of mixed features and cautions,
etc. and creating an organized outline in classic form.

After that, you can ask about technical skills and adaptability.

FYI, I graduated in anthropology, minoring in geology, with a background in
acting and stage and costume design. I won prizes for creative writing in
high school and skipped all English courses in university. So, naturally, I
started writing software manuals for mainframe software, there being no such
thing as CPM or DOS.


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