Donald Trump and Technical Writing, part 1

This probably seems like a really weird topic, but as election day approaches, I’ve been noticing technical writing bending, adjusting, or being used and consumed in unusual contexts when it comes to the election, and, specifically, to Donald Trump. A prime example is this letter to Trump by a lawyer for the New York Times, which went viral. Its author, David McCraw, vice president and assistant general counsel of The New York Times, claims that the letter wasn’t intended as a dis to Trump. He was merely composing a technical communication in response to Trump’s lawyer, he writes in an article aptly titled, “I Hardly Expected My Letter to Donald Trump to Go Viral”. (It seems like there’s a whole genre of essays along the lines of, “I never expected my piece to go viral.” These pieces function, of course, to fan the flames of the piece’s popularity–despite their authors’ frequent claims not to notice such things.)

Another example of the weird relationship between Trump and tech writing is a disclaimer at the Huffington Post that appears under every article about Trump. I noticed this the other day when I clicked on an article in my “News” app and it took me to the Huffington Post. I investigated, and it turns out that the editorial team has decided to include this after every article about him:

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 10.25.54 PM.png

Here, the familiar form of the  disclaimer is used to take a strong, publication-wide editorial stand against Trump. Can a text still be considered technical writing once it makes its argument known–or once it makes its argument central? What do you think?


1 thought on “Donald Trump and Technical Writing, part 1”

  1. When I think of technical writing I think of argument neutral or opinion neutral prose. I would expect many others to have the same thought. I guess the issue stems from lack of knowledge of what technical writing really is. However, at first glance, the title “I Hardly Expected My Letter to Donald Trump to Go Viral” makes me think that the article is merely an opinionated piece. I think technical writing loses a certain “credibility” if it contains any sort of opinionated stance. Still, I think it is complicated because after reading the author’s original letter to Trump’s lawyer, he was only stating facts presented to the public.


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