Re: A Theory at the End of the Rainbow?

Subject: Re: A Theory at the End of the Rainbow?
From: Jane Bergen <janeber -at- CYBERRAMP -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 19 Nov 1998 21:48:56 -0600

Hello, Doug,

Yes, indeed, there are many theories of learning. Any good technical
writing curriculum should include these courses....along with courses
on writing, editing, and technical subjects. These courses should not
only help you eliminate wordiness, increase clarity, and improve all
your communication skills, but they will also help you learn WHY
something works and why other things don't....the difference between
someone who "falls into" a job and someone who trains for it.

Now before the mud slinging starts, let me try to qualify that last
statement. Someone can be an excellent writer but may not
understand -- or even care about understanding --- theory. Many
excellent tech writers arrived from other disciplines and other
careers. Technical communication courses are no guarantee of success.
Some people, indeed, seem to be "gifted" with the ability to
communicate well without formal training in technical communication.

Theory doesn't make you a better writer necessarily, but I sure (pure
opinion here) think it makes you a more valuable writer for many
reasons (a subject that has been beat to death on this list...go
search the archives. See archive information at the end of every
message on this list.) Laura Lemay's successes are no doubt due to
many factors, but her courses surely didn't hurt.

People just tend to seek out that subject matter that interests them
and "learning theory" is a pretty broad subject. If you want to do
some research on your own, you'll be able to find plenty of books.
Just narrow it down a bit as to what you want to look for....there's
really too much information out there to be a generalist any more.

Jane Bergen, Technical Writer
Dallas, Texas
janeber -at- cyberramp -dot- net

> Ok so I'm a programmer who has written for computer magazines and
> has written a computer book. Computer book author Laura
> Lemay, on her Web page, details how she designed her own
> major at Carnegie Mellon, which mixed courses from
> [paraphrasing]:
> "1. the computer department
> 2. English
> 3. Courses on theory of and the presentation of information."
> My question: what could be being referred to (passive ad
> nauseumus), in the third point above? What would be the fields
> of endeavor or departments of knowledge where one would
> look for such things?

> I'm ignorant. I've heard some reference made to Clustar
> methods, chunking and analyzing needs of the user.
> I thought my book was ok, but it lacked much
> organization in spots. All you people know how to
> organize. Is there some research in
> something called perhaps 'theory of learning' that
> you draw upon when deciding upon a felicitous arrangement
> of your material? Or have the principles of clear writing,
> hard work, and experience helped you more?

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