Re: Silly jargon (Uncooperative SMEs)

Subject: Re: Silly jargon (Uncooperative SMEs)
From: mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM
Date: Sun, 2 Apr 1995 18:10:27 EDT

Michael Kenward writes:

>But you are a _Technical_ Writer. If you really need a qualifier to your
>expert, why not call them a _Technical_ Expert. The term Subject Matter

I am a technical writer. I write about many different technical subjects.
An expert on the subject of my current book is, relative to me, a subject
matter expert. They may have a friend who is a technical expert on
thermodynamics but, because that isn't my subject, that technical expert isn't
my subject matter expert.

So, it's a quibbling semantic distinction. Are you surprised?

I think a case could be made for subject expert vs. subject matter expert,
but "subject matter" does seem a little clearer to me than "subject expert"
- like, are they an expert on nominative clauses, or something? So
"subject matter expert" may be a little clearer (when encountered in context).

>Expert is just plain silly. It is the sort of jargon that good writers
>should excise from their copy. And as a large part of the rest of the world

I certainly wouldn't expect the term to show up in documentation. I use it
_within_ the documentation process (step 1001: get technical signoff from SME).
No reason that should ever show up in the documentation itself.

>will tell you, the abbreviation SME has a very specific meaning.

SME has about a billion very specific meanings. Every three letter acronym
does. A sample:

supplier manufacturing engineering
Society of Manufacturing Engineers
shape memory effect
strategic marketing in the enterprise
systems manufacturing engineering
shop maintenance equipment
solar mesospheric explorer (NASA)
small and medium-size enterprises
subject matter expert
session management exit (VTAM)
Shenyang Metals Exchange (People's Republic of China)

It should usually be clear which meaning is in effect from the context.

BTW, here's some defs for TLA:

test laboratory analysis
term lease agreement (IBM Credit Corporation)
the last assembler
three letter acronym/abbreviation

Nothing is sacred (NIS).

Apologies for the long post,

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

note: IBM, in this context, stands for International Business Machines Corp.,
not for "interacting Boson model", nor for the "International Brotherhood of

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