Subject: Certification/Degrees
From: "Grismore, Carolyn" <cgrismore -at- ACCESSLINE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 1996 10:28:48 -0600

I am an avid list lurker, but generally don't get into the fray. The
recent comments about turning a tech writing job over to *a secretary*
(said with an obvious sneer) finally prompted me to write you. This
whole attitude smacks of eliteism. Just as there are degreed
technical writers who can't write their way out of a wet paper bag,
there are also mere secretaries who can and do.

I started my technical writing career when I was working as a word
processor, and a temp at that. I had always been an excellent writer,
but neither my bachelors degree in journalism, nor my masters in
statistics, nor my years as a college administrator opened any doors
for me. As part of my job, I began correcting the tech writer's work.
At first it was small things like bad grammar, poor sentence
structure, etc. I got caught doing it because our Chief Engineer
recognized good writing when he saw it, and recognized that the
current professional did not have that level of skill. He encouraged
me, and when the assignment was over, talked a friend into giving me a
shot at a real tech writing job. Proposal work. Sink or swim on one
short assignment. I swam, and have been working in the field for ten
years, in increasingly responsible jobs. I'm now a lead writer at a
small high tech firm.

My point is that excellent writers exist who don't have the required
technical writing credentials. I have looked at the course outlines
of several local Community Colleges and technical schools, and am
underwhelmed by what they know about the day to day activities of the
real technical writing world. The mere presence of a technical
writing degree does not guarantee a prospective employee a good writer
any more than having a secretary do the same work guarantees you get a
poor one.

I am not arguing that we should put secretaries into technical writing
positions, but only that we should get off our elitist high horses
where degrees are concerned. The point is excellent writing ability,
and where you get that is relatively immaterial. A good writer
without a degree is, in my humble opinion, vastly superior to a
degreed, certified individual who can't write a coherent sentence.

I'm back to my lurking.

Carolyn Grismore
cgrismore -at- accessline -dot- com

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