I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)

Subject: I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)
From: Jane Bergen <janeber -at- CYBERRAMP -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 21:09:28 -0600

And people get tired of hearing me rant about why technical writing
EDUCATION (i.e., technical writing courses...this is not about
degrees) is important....just because someone can write a short story,
a personal essay, or proper business correspondence does not
necessarily (note that word, "necessarily") make the person a
technical writer. Technical writing is indeed DIFFERENT (sorry for the
caps but I'm using them judiciously for emphasis) in appearance from
writing in general. Technical writing techniques are indeed different
from writing techniques in general. Until employers and recruiters ---
and even technical writer wannabes--- understand the difference,
though, we're blowing in the wind. It hurts all of us because we all
get lumped into one big category by the public.

Technical writing is not rocket science, a magical art, or a
"gift" --- I believe that just about anyone can learn to write
technical documentation, but they do have to learn. It's not the style
of writing generally taught in high school or college English classes,
where grades are awarded by the pound (number of words that make sense
and have a minimum of spelling and grammar errors) by most traditional
teachers. To make matters worse, there aren't many "how to write like
a technical writer" books --- a matter that sorely needs addressing by
the academic members of our profession. Instead, and largely due to
industry demands, the academic programs are too worried about whether
the students know Word versus FrameMaker!

I hope, pray, fervently "wish" and "desire" <g> that those men and
women who want to be GOOD technical writers (as opposed to merely
"paid" technical writers) will take it upon themselves to investigate
the differences and then skillfully apply the differences to their
writing. The more good writing is out there, the more employers and
readers (and maybe even recruiters) will begin to learn the

Jane Bergen

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Technical Writers List; for all Technical Communication issues
> [mailto:TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU]On Behalf Of Sharon Burton
> I am rewriting a help system written by some other unknown
> person. I have another to do as well for this
> project. I know I am not the only one on this
> list who follows modern tech writing standards but I have
> to tell you people, this project is making
> me depressed. The entire project is written
> in future tense, there are wishes and desires throughout
> the project, we have very complicated sentence
> structures that use really big words, and
> many other problems I must fix. Comma faults and comma
> splices everywhere. "May" all over. Terminates instead
> of breaks. Several "As mentioned earlier's".
> In a help file! Like the user read earlier! Like I could find
> earlier!


> person. sigh. I spend so much time and effort teaching my
> students how to write well, and it seems there are a
> large number of people out there making
> apparently a decent living turning out stuff no one can


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