Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Humanistic Rationale For Technical Writing

My reflections and take-aways for Carolyn R. Miller's "A Humanistic Rationale For Technical Writing":

Positivist view of science puts science (objective facts) and rhetoric (emotional language/symbols) at opposition. The old stuff vs. fluff dichotomy. This relegates technical writing to a skills course which causes a myriad of problems for both instructors and students as well as field in general. I see this as a problem that not only holds true for technical writing but all writing courses (with the exception of creative writing).

The new (well in 1979 anyway) epistemology makes human knowledge thoroughly relative and science fundamentally rhetorical -- what we know of reality is created by individual action and communal assent.

Miller asserts that good technical writing becomes, rather than the revelation of absolute reality, a persuasive version of experience.

Sociological and rhetorical truism -- communication takes place in communities.

Technical writing should not be taught as a set of techniques but as a way to participate in a community; not just a set of skills but also an understanding of one's own activity within that community.

I agree with this wholeheartedly but I also happen to believe this is the way to teach writing in general -- so what separates a general writing course from a technical writing course then?

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