Re: Certification/Degrees

Subject: Re: Certification/Degrees
From: Melissa Hunter-Kilmer <mhunterk -at- BNA -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 09:59:13 EST

Summary: Do I weed out those with "inapplicable" or no degrees in my search for
a consultant? Not at all. That would be shooting myself in the foot.


On Wed, 11 Dec 1996, "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM> wrote:

> -- The dividing lines are almost generational. Many experienced writers
seem to have fallen into the profession. Not many set out to be tech
writers. Plus, there weren't many TW/TC programs when they were in
college. Thus, people came from many divergent backgrounds.

Even if there had been TW programs at my college (ten thousand strong, sing we a
song, Oberlin, to thee), I doubt I would have taken any courses in it. I didn't
want to be a tech writer back then, I wanted to be a priest -- or maybe a
librarian -- or who knew what. I took no English courses, since we had no
distribution requirements and I disliked all the literature that ever seemed to
be formally taught. I took one course in BASIC, and that was it for

So I majored in Greek and religion. There was a recession on, and I was lucky
to get a job as a receptionist. Then I worked up to admin. asst. I moved far
away and got a job as a proofreader, then found a copyediting job. I moved
again and got a reporting job, got RIFfed and landed a job in the same company
doing systems support. That job was also eliminated, and I found my current
tech writing job.

I use every bit of my education and experience in this job, and I needed to take
that circuitous route. I wasn't *emotionally* ready for tech writing until a
few years ago.

On Wed, 11 Dec 1996, Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM> wrote:

> What's relevant is that no, you don't need to go to college to learn the
writing aspects of the job, and college isn't going to give you the desire to
write. But you do need an education to learn what are sometimes politely called
the anal aspects of writing, namely points of grammar and style.

I learned very little grammar in school. I learned almost all of it at my
mother's knee. After that, I learned from an anal-retentive college boyfriend
and then from a series of superlative editors on my reporting job. By the time
I was a reporter, I already wrote very well or I wouldn't have gotten the job.
I got very little of this writing skill from formal education.

I learned style largely just by writing and reading. It didn't hurt that I
carried on a correspondence with my husband, then my fiance, daily for three
years. And I don't just mean a note every day -- I mean a long letter. I
learned by reading his stuff, too. (This also developed my typing speed; at one
point, I could type about 110 words a minute, thanks to this correpondence.)

My point is that people learn stuff from various sources. To require any kind
of degree or courses is self-defeating. You winnow out some very interesting
and accomplished folks that way.

To use an example from another field, my MIL has on paper only the equivalent of
a high-school degree. To my mind, she is better educated than most PhDs I have
known. She is bilingual in French and English, and her Latin and German are
quite good. She was trained as a concert pianist. She founded an elementary
school 54 years ago and ran it for about 30 years while teaching music, French,
Latin, and literature. Because she has only a certificate of achievement from a
private tutor, not a formal degree, our county does not consider her qualified
to teach in its school system. It's their loss.

Melissa Hunter-Kilmer
mhunterk -at- bna -dot- com
(standard disclaimer)

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