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

Subject: Re: I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)
From: Sharon Burton <sharonburton -at- EMAIL -dot- MSN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 20:05:29 -0800

On this topic, Jane, you and I are in agreement. This is a specialty
writing. Not everyone can do it but if you can write decently, you can be
taught it. Both of these help files are really badly written and if I were
the target audience, I would be clueless what I am doing and how. There is
little logical organization, few numbered procedures, and little real
explanation of what you are doing and why. It may be technically accurate
but who cares? It is unreadable so it could be anything.

S/R don't work most of the time on these. The sentences are always passively
written. Actions just occur and things will display and then are dismissed.
There are remarkably complex descriptions of every little thing on the
dialogs (called dialogs not dialog boxes), including OK, Cancel and Help.
Every time they appear. If the user doesn't know Windows basics, we can't
help them. Our job here is not to teach then Windows, but rather to teach
them this product. The time spent documenting every Cancel, OK and Help
button could have been spent writing why you do these things or what the
result of them might be. Conditionals and permissives everywhere.

And these people probably made something close to my hourly wage and clearly
were employed because they wrote this crap. And the people who paid for it
were robbed but they don't know better. It is our job to raise our rates and
show people why paying more will produce better docs. I really believe this.
paying more for quality may be the way to help people/managers understand
what they are paying for. They will ask why the higher rate. And that gives
us a chance to point out what they are paying for. And people value what
they pay more to get.

Thanks for the rant room. It has been a frustrating week and looks to be
more of the same...


Sharon Burton-Hardin
President of the Inland Empire chapter of the STC
Anthrobytes Consulting
Home of RoboNEWS(tm), the unofficial RoboHELP newsletter
Check out!

-----Original Message-----
From: Jane Bergen <janeber -at- CYBERRAMP -dot- NET>
Date: Wednesday, 25 November, 1998 7:04 PM
Subject: I told you so... (was RE: Generalized rant)

>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
>From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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