Re: Technical Writing Defined At Last

Subject: Re: Technical Writing Defined At Last
From: Connie Winch <CEW -at- MACOLA -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 09:39:53 -0500


Date: Wed, 10 Dec 1997 12:10:41 -0500
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Subject: Technical Writing Defined At Last

How does this strike you as a definition of technical writing
(remember writing?!)? I want a definition to explain what technical
writing is, and what we do, when I give
presentations. Here it is <drum roll>:
Technical writing has two parts. (1) The process is writing
information provided/generated/developed by
specialists for use by either the general public or by another group of
specialists with a different area or level of expertise than the
specialists AND (2) The product is documentation that no one (or very
would read by choice.
??? Thanks for (civil) comments,

Mary Durlak Erie Documentation Inc.
East Aurora, New York (near Buffalo)
durl -at- buffnet -dot- net



I'd like to present another perspective on your definition of technical
writing, if I may. As one who often reads manuals by choice, I question
making the failure of some to read it by choice a part of the
=definition= of technical writing. I think that if we did include that,
we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by highlighting the
unfortunate fact that some will never pick it up. I'm not saying that
we should never talk about that fact...on the contrary! It's one of our
biggest challenges, and we have to work hard to do what we can to
overcome it. But making it central to what technical writing is...I'd
reconsider that if I were you.

I don't know what your audience for your presentations is, but if it's
some of those specialists you referred to or management within your
company or clients, how well will it go over if you tell them,
basically, "We'll take all this technical information and do our best to
present it in a way that is usable to the reader...but if we do have any
readers, it won't be because they want to."

And now if I can offer my own definition, just to give you food for

The technical writer is the bridge between the expert/specialist
[whichever you prefer] and the layperson/end user. She takes technical
information about a product or service and translates it into a form
that is understandable and usable for the intended audience, those who
must use the information to perform the task at hand.

(Actually the "bridge" concept is not mine originally. It was presented
to me that way in college by my writing professor, and it's in our text
book, The Professional Writer, by Alred, Oliu, and Brusaw.)

Hope this helps...


Connie E. Winch
Technical Writer
Macola, Inc.
cew -at- macola -dot- com, or

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