[Academic-discuss] new to Academic SIG - question

FineLines fine-lines at sbcglobal.net
Sun Jul 15 18:48:52 UTC 2018

Hello academic types!  I am definitely not "one of you". 


that is, I've never trained for nor worked in education, until three years
ago when I took a job as Sr. Editor (Programs) with Project Lead The Way
(pltw.org). We produce curriculum for pre-K through 12 in the STEM subjects,
specifically Engineering, Computer Science, and Biomedical Science. I'm the
first real, professional editor to look at their content, which previously
got only copyedit from a contractor if anything. Astonishing, right? Hm,
maybe I shouldn't have identified my company.


While a large part of editing is editing, regardless of the subject matter,
I came up against a mindset that's foreign to me. (My experience is largely
in user doc for software.) And I often sense an attitude that conveys,
"You're not one of us. You don't need to know xxx."  


I have always contended that the editor is not a commodity whose services
get tacked on at the end. The editor should be part of the content
writing/development team and have the opportunity to give input throughout
the process. The editor (or this editor) has certain expertise and can add
value that no one else can. At least that's the way I was trained. I've made
little headway in getting this point across to anyone and am almost resigned
to the fact that this is how I'm going to spend the rest of my career -
being undervalued, not considered a part of the team, with my "arguments"


OK, you can respond to that part if you like, but my real question for you
is this:  Why do academics/educators insist on writing-regardless of
audience demographics-in the same style they were required to write for
their dissertations and the like?  I get that you were trained to write that
way through the course of your training (actually we all were, those of us
who are around my age), but why is there such a disconnect when it comes to
writing something instructional to teachers and students?  


Have the ideas of "people first", active voice, "less (words) is more", and
"plain or universal English" just not pierced your professional ranks? These
"tenets" have long been part of technical writing best practices.  So I
struggle with how we seem to be so far apart from each other in writing
style for a lay audience.  The academics I'm talking about are those I work
with (don't mean to point the finger at anyone here), but I'm hoping you can
give me a little insight into why this is the case.  Granted, none of my
colleagues were trained to write using the best practices of tech com,
rather they probably didn't get any training in how to write (except by


When I came on board, I quickly noticed the stiff, wordy, formal language
and have been rewriting it ever since. I've created numerous job aids-some
requested, but most at my own initiative-to help steer the writers, but I
see little evidence that anybody even refers to these resources.  I can't
make the horse drink.  Can you tell I'm really discouraged?  I believe they
think of me as the "fixer" and if subconsciously, make no effort to change
their behavior because I'll suggest all those types of changes.  (There's
always the excuse that timelines are too tight, which is the fault of
management.)  Sorry I've gotten off on a tangent. 


So back to my main question, do you have any idea why education has not
really adopted the best practices of tech com?? (although it's in the
Standards for the students to learn!)


Thanks for listening.  Maybe we can stir up some discussion, as I've heard
nothing from or about this SIG since I joined.  How many members are there?
Is this SIG in danger of being shut down?


Feeling defeated,


Paula Robertson, STC Associate Fellow

dba FineLines

Technical Editor, Writer, Designer




You have no idea what it's like to be a "just between you and me" person in
a "just between you and I" world.

- William Haefeli, The New Yorker 8/30/2010






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