Consulting with Technical Writers




Powers, Shelley

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Students in the University of Texas at Austin's Electrical Engineering program sell t-shirts with the slogan “Get a real major” emblazoned on the back. That tshirt means “We do our thing over here, and you do yours over there. You don’t quantify; we do. We can prove that we have the right answer; you’re hard pressed to pull that off. You don’t know what I’m talking about, and I don’t get you either. Please just leave me here safe.” Writing consultants–especially those from humanities backgrounds –run headlong into this sentiment. The simplest and most helpful thing we can do to address it is to adapt a little. Sure, we may not be comfortable handing down The Law about language. But we can give clear guidelines that will keep the "grammar grader" from ticking three more points for mechanics from the writer's paper. We can work within the style and format guides stipulated by the writer’s instructor regardless of how wacky they may appear. We can offer suggestions to make writing as rational as possible– and that is exactly what we ought to do to help writers produce good technical writing.

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