RE: LONG! - Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices "

Subject: RE: LONG! - Appealing to or introducing Tech Comm "best practices "
From: "Brady, Joy" <JBrady -at- alldata -dot- net>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 1999 17:38:15 -0400


A good question for the group! You make some conjectures about people who
"fell into" the profession that ring true for me. I'll give you my own

I "fell" into the field just last year with a degree in English, 3 years of
night school (computer programming), and experience preparing grants and
promotional brochures/pubs. The consulting firm sent me to a client thinking
I might be a good fit. I was, the work is going well, I really like this

Even though I have some good instincts, I do sense that I have much work to
do, and experience to gain, in order to be a true professional in technical
communications. A profession is not a true profession unless there is a
"body of knowledge" that is understood and maintained by its members. You
don't "wing" a profession.

I'm benefiting from the fact that, in systems documentation, it's a gift to
find readable documentation at ALL. This allows me to produce something
useful, and in the meantime, become more of a student of my new craft. An
technically smart, literate person who wants to produce documentation is a
bonus to a department that lacks good documentation.

That said, because I'm NEW, I have the humility to accept guidance from a
mentor -- and I have one (who is an experienced teacher and writer, trained
in information mapping, has belonged to STC, etc.) . He could describe to me
any best practice, and I am grateful for it. I'm continually amazed at how
much "Tech Writing 101" is not just instinctive for me. If the person
you're thinking about advising is new, you're probably in luck. They should
have the requisite humility to accept your guidance. If not, they would be a
pain even with a Master's in Tech Comm.

To address the case of one who "fell in" years ago: (I'm now imagining
myself 10 years from now, still in this job, and having never taken a tech
writing course - how would I feel...) I imagine that YOUR modeling the
best practices of the profession is the best start. You must produce
demonstrably better results than I do with your methods.

If the person you're dealing with has any practices that would be considered
best practices within our profession, praise these! (if appropriate) In
other words, do build the good relationship before you start comparing your
formal training with his winging it. I would be very turned off if a writer
I hardly knew started laying into me about his degree, etc. Build the
relationship first. If you are under a deadline, and this person's just not
working, professional advice probably will not help.

I'm sorry I've run long -- I just wanted to give you a look into my own mind
and perceptions, since I'm the kind of person you're worried about

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