The Status of Technical Writers
Date: Sat, 3 Jun 95 10:54:42 PDT
From: Peter Langston <psl>
Subject: The Status of Technical Writers
Forwarded-by: bostic@CS.Berkeley.EDU (Keith Bostic)
Subject: And In The U.S., They're Forced To Buy Retail
From: Mateo.Burtch@eng.sun.com (M. Burtch--Specialist in Courier Font)
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) released its annual Report
on the Status of Technical Writers today. This report, issued by the
STC's Writers' Committee on Technical Scribes, monitors the civil and
human rights of technical writers throughout the world and documents
abuses against them. It also includes a handy quick-reference guide to
basic Fortran compiler options.
Overall, the report noted that the situation for technical writers the
world over is "precarious, and, in many cases, is worsening rapidly. In
particular, writers in the Third World routinely live in poverty and
squalor." (The report noted that this may apply to other people in the
Third World as well.)
The report concludes:
To the twin I-beams of Democracy and Freedom one may add those of
Technical Accuracy and Good Visual Layout. But these too are
threatened by mankind's age-old nemeses: Bigotry... Hatred ...
Right Justification. If the human race is not only to survive,
but to prosper in the heart and in the mind and in the soul,
technical writers must practice their ageless craft unencumbered
by fear, privation, or schedules.
Some of the highlights of the Committee's report include:
o Worldwide deaths involving courier font have increased 9% over the
past two years.
o Canada recently passed legislation making the passive voice the
o In China's remote Dimsum province, oxen are used in place of
technical writers, with no apparent loss of readability.
o In North Korea, police departments no longer use electric cattle
prods to torture dissidents, replacing them instead with extremely
slow and finicky daisy wheel printers.
o The Frame Technology Corporation now touts its product as
o Torture of technical writers by roving gangs of hooligans known as
"editors" is rampant in Northern Ireland, where sectarian violence
between different spellers of "filesystem" runs out of control.
One particularly gruesome form of punishment is "chopping":
holding a writer down and then cutting the dangly thing off his
o A similar practice is "stet-ing," the continual removal and
replacement of chunks of text, leaving the writer dazed and
confused. (Or more dazed and confused, to be exact.)
o A worldwide shortage of #2 pencils has left many technical
writers in poorer countries unable to take notes or doodle
during meetings -- forcing them to pay attention or end the
meeting by flinging live poisonous insects at the other attendees.
o The Baath Socialist party of Syria has introduced the use of
cuneiform stone tablets, which jam PostScript printers.
What can you do? Lots. Send a letter to the head of government of one
of the cited countries; include a diagram with mixed fonts and at least
one incorrect cross-reference. Show them you mean business. Or write to
the UN High Commissioner on the Status of Technical Writers, stating that
you are categorically opposed to the use of mustard gas during staff
meetings and that you're still having problems figuring out which way the
darn CD is supposed to go in. Or you can have a fundraising party,
inviting all your technical writer friends and promising them that if they
give a donation to Save the Tech Writers you'll cancel the performance
art you had scheduled for the evening.
A copy of the report is available from the Copy Center and from your local
(c) 1992 Mateo Burtch
Yes, you can forward this; just keep my name attached to it or I'll publicly
link you with Ron Reagan.
© 1995 Peter Langston