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How to... define yourself
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by Geoff Hart
Previously published as: Hart, G.J. 1996. How to... define yourself. Blue Pencil, newsletter of the Pittsburgh Chapter of STC, 33(3):6. [An excerpt from an online discussion on the techwr–l mailing list about the perception of technical communicators as "only" typists and desktop publishers.]
Here's the analogy that occurs to me: we're writers, not typists, because we create information from data rather than simply inputting what someone else has written.
By analogy, we are also (information) designers, not desktop publishers. To whatever extent our work involves creating an effective design, it should be part of our job; applying someone else's templates isn't a good use of our talent. The value we add to a product comes from the intellectual input we provide, not the mechanical, rote performance of tasks. That's the important distinction.
(The same appreciation applies for "typists", by the way; I'm not intending to denigrate their role because I've done enough of my own typing to appreciate its importance.)
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