Re: Information anxiety

Subject: Re: Information anxiety
From: Beth Agnew <bagnew -at- INSYSTEMS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 11:55:10 -0500

Geoff Hart wrote about how his responsibilities have broadened to include
writing, translation, online help, HTML and so on in addition to his
editing work. He said:
> The problem? Normal people (as opposed to me) specialize in
> each of these fields, and have full-time jobs just
> maintaining expertise in these fields. Let's not even
> mention the need to keep up with all the new tools that
> each field requires. I'm doing that too, though not as well
> as I'd like. Revising my job description back to "editor
> and only editor" won't fly; besides, I like the chaos
> (excuse... "diversity") of my current work. Faced with this
> problem, I developed a full-blown case of information
> anxiety: I wanted to keep up expertise in each field. The
> solution, fortunately, was fairly simple (if somewhat more
> difficult to implement): recognize the fact that I _can't_
> be expert in everything, but _can_ learn enough to discuss
> everything knowledgeably and "fake it" reasonably well. Not
> an ideal solution, but a reasonable compromise.

I submit that Geoff is responding, as are many of us, to the demand for
broader skills in information development and knowledge management. It's a
function of the times in which we live. The anxiety will diminish as we
become more accustomed to being generalists, rather than specialists. As we
are validated in these roles, we'll feel more able to handle the
multi-dimensional nature of our profession. We're becoming Renaissance
communicators in the truest sense of the word.

We have the skills that make this possible. Any litany of "what makes a
good technical writer" includes a curiosity and desire to learn, strong
ability to communicate regardless of medium (textual, visual, etc.), level
of comfort with complex or technical material, an inherent ability to think
logically, conceptually, analytically and critically, as well as a talent
for pattern recognition and making connections between seemingly unrelated
concepts. Like any skilled artisan, we have areas where we are more adept
because we have had more practice or have a greater affinity, but we also
have the ability to overcome our weak areas by leveraging the knowledge of
others. (This list is an example.) Technology is assisting in this by
providing the tools to help us do it.

(BTW, I'm giving a paper on this exact topic at the 98 STC Annual

Beth Agnew
Senior Technical Writer, InSystems Technologies Inc.
65 Allstate Parkway, Suite 100 Tel: (905) 513-1400 ext. 280
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 9X1 Fax: (905) 513-1419
mailto:bagnew -at- insystems -dot- com Visit us at:

See my friendly face at:, or

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