Christine Skolnik wrote:
> Wait a second. How is the writing assigned in Engineering courses more real
> that that assigned in technical writing courses?
From what I have seen, and tried to resist, most technical writing
instructors separate "Substance" from "style" and focus on the latter.
As soon as that happens, the assignment is less "real". This separation
was borne out by Summer Smith's (admittedly flawed) research on advice
to students. She asked Engineering professors and Tech Writing teachers
(all TAs) to agree or disagree with this statement:
The most important thing to do when writing technical documents is to be
1= strongly disagree, 5=strongly agree
(You should note that within the survey several things could be called
"most important"--I'd argue that was a flaw)
Whereas the average for 31 Engineers was 3.8, the average for the 25 TAs
was 2.8. The TAs actually disagreed! So the writing loses its real
focus by becoming an exercise in style, even if it is drawn from
> I teach technical writing to classes of 24 and have hours of personal
> contact with them. They *also* have access to writing centre specialists in
> technical writing.
This merely confirms my point that the Writing centre is the best way to
teach writing. Why else would the classroom teacher imitate it? I know
I did my best to do so when I have taught composition.
> Shouldn't we all be working together toward an ideal in which English
> departments teach writing, run writing centres, and are involved in writing
> accross the discipline programs?
> Wouldn't it mean more jobs for English graduates?
Yeah, it might. But I think my ideal is a little different. I have an
ideal where people in any department value communication and make use of
writing to learn strategies, where they are not intimidated by marking
because they think it involves grammar. From what I have seen, the
English Departments in Canada are more likely to encourage such
malevolent marking mystification (couldn't resist the alliteration) than
to help their colleagues in other disciplines. The weird thing at UofT
is that while that is true on one hand, the department also seems to be
trying to prevent other departments from developing their own discipline
specific writing courses, or even writing-intensive courses.
Personally, I'd love it if English would be more open because then I
could do both the stuff I'm doing now and teach literature as well.
That would be my ideal job.