Written items: Most often vs. Most valued

I enjoyed Blythe, Lauer, and Curran’s (BLC) article immensely because it directly ties into my post from last week that discussed the value of a writer.

In one section of their study, BLC display a graph that shows the most often produced written materials as well as the most valued written materials.  The first four items in each graph (email, websites, instructions/manuals, presentations) are the same, which did not surprise me because these seem to be the standard documents any tech writer is responsible for in a modern workplace.

However, a trend began to emerge after the first four.  I noticed that it seemed as if the writings that had more value were written the least often.  This appears to be true, save for the top four items, which may require further exploration and research to find out why these four things are mirrored on both lists.

For example, press releases are not highly-valued yet they are written quite frequently.  Research papers on the other hand are written less frequently, but have a high value.  The most interesting aspect of this article was the inclusion of fiction, which I found odd for an article regarding tech writing.  What is even more interesting is that fiction is listed as being valuable, but it is nowhere to be found on the most often written chart.

These graphs and discussion of the value and frequency of different writing types was a small section in this paper, but a very important one that I think has the potential to be explored in more detail in future research studies.  BLC may be well on their way to pinpointing exactly why writers are often undervalued and understand what makes other types of writing more or less valuable than others, even if it is written at high frequencies.

Posted on November 16, 2014, in Society and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I agree that more research needs to be done and that the article doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what is valued in the so-called “web 2.0 world.” I know a couple of these researchers are exploring the variety of job titles that exist nowadays, which emphasizes their interest in “connecting specific genres of writing to the technologies and software used to complete them.” Also, while it makes perfect sense to conduct this study of TPC alumni, what about those people who end up in this field who didn’t have undergraduate training in writing?

  2. To comment on Dr. Pignetti’s question, I know of someone who was in a company doing something totally unrelated to technical communication. Her boss asked her what she’d like to do, and she said technical communication. So, she switched to that area of the business and excelled. She had a background in design, I think. This cameo is one that I ponder from time to time: how much do we rely on a formal education, and what metrics for success in a certain profession do we use? Hopefully more than formal education.

  3. I think your post was interesting, especially in pointing out the difference between highly valued vs. highly created. It’s not a subject often thought of when considering writing, especially since it is rather easy to isolate certain genres of writing.

    I would push back, however, on the idea of value. While I see your point, I think that value depends entirely on the audience and viewer. If you need a high volume of press releases to document projects, create corporate timelines or syndicate content across media channels, wouldn’t press releases be more valuable than a dense research paper? On the other hand, if you need depth of content instead of content summary, a research paper or longer article is more valuable. In the end, I would suggest that ‘value’ is a malleable term, but would be interested to hear what your definition is in light of this post.

  4. natashajmceachin

    I think you made incredible points in this post. I actually transitioned from journalism to technical writing as I found the field more promising and in other words valuable.

    • Me too! My BA was in Communications with a focus on Journalism but I didn’t like the way the media was delivering watered-down crap to people so I switched my focus for my graduate studies.

  5. I agree with Jessa when she mentions the importance of audience analysis. Does my audience want a whitepaper or a series of tasks on how to use a product? It depends on the rhetorical situation.

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