TW and education

Subject: TW and education
From: Alisa Dean <Alisa -dot- Dean -at- MCI -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 1996 12:24:00 -0700

Tim Altom wrote:

>It's still my firm belief that until we in the field finally begin to define
>what we do and hold ourselves to an objective standard, we won't have a

To throw more coal on this thread....

I'm going to use the analogy of censorship regarding this topic. Who
chooses? Who decides what the standards should be? What if someone
disagrees? Are you *that* positive that you have no chance of failing
these standards, to the point of risking your career and your investment
in it? (From the responses to this thread, it seems that many of the
so-called accredited programs are not worth being set as this so-called
standard.) I would not want someone else to decide what I should be
and do in my career, or tell me that I don't qualify because of
some inherent snobbishness or because I did not fill in all the boxes
on some checklist.

This is a capitalistic society. If a product comes out that the populace
does not like, it will fail, eventually. It's an evolutionary process.
If we did bad jobs, we would be released from our positions.
If we all did bad jobs, we would not be able to demand and get
the types of salaries that we do. I am constantly judged regarding
the quality, timeliness, and amount of product that I create.
If I did not satisfy the needs of the client, whether as
an employee or as a contractor, I would not be able to keep my job
for very long.

With the growing sophistication of the audience, it is becoming harder
and harder to do a poor job at documentation and get away with it.
In the bad old days of computing, *anything* was accepted gratefully.
Now, even $20 softwares have professionally created, printed documentation.
It is now the standard that all GUIs have on-line help or documentation.
Graphics are expected, and are noticed if they are missing. Just
like the special effects in '50s TV would now be laughed at by the
viewing public, the old standards of documentation are now unacceptable.

Let us be judged for what we do, not some label. I am more than happy
to demonstrate my skill during interviews and within my job. I am
not offended by having to educate people (it seems, usually people
who started in those bad old days of computing) that good documentation
is necessary, and not that much harder to do than bad documentation
(at least, for someone who knows how to do it right). I am proud of
what I create, but I always listen for feedback. This is why I believe
my skills have increased over the years, by listening. If my audience
begins to believe that what I produce is not up to par, they will tell
me (usually very loudly).

If we do not have a profession, it is because we do not act like
professionals, and demand to be treated as such, not because some
of us do not have degrees. Besides, I disagree with this anyway
- we are professionals, we provide value-added services, we need
to stay current on technology (see DTP thread), methodologies,
and audience. We are constantly having to expand our knowledge,
whether through self-training or through formalized
courses. Basically, good TWs take pride in what they create, and try to
create the best product possible. I would define that as being a

Finally, Mr. Altom implies that I am not a professional because I do not have
a degree. I guess my ten years and over $50,000/yr in income makes
me a poor non-professional sap who cannot compete in the real world.
Oh, well, it's a tough life, but someone has to do it.

Alisa Dean
Sr. Technical Writer
alisa -dot- dean -at- mci -dot- com

P.S. BTW, I have attended 2 courses specifically related to TW. I
have attended college Business English courses. However, the vast
majority of my knowledge I gained OTJ. I can write, edit, and do graphic
arts, drafting, publishing, management, and whatever else it takes
to run a Publications Department. Thought you might want to know.

(I start smoothing down my ruffled feathers.)

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