Task-oriented writing as a preference?

Subject: Task-oriented writing as a preference?
From: Geoff hart <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "'Mark Dempsey'" <mxd2 -at- osi -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000 15:11:51 -0500

Mark Dempsey proposed that <<the impetus toward task-oriented writing began
with popularly available software (Word, Quicken, etc.), and is focussed on
a large audience of relatively computer-illiterated users.>>

Not so. It began with the belated acknowledgment that as writers, we need to
determine what the needs of our users are and how to meet them. In general,
needs come under two broad headings: "I want to do something" (task based
information) and "I need to look something up" (reference). Most users buy
software to accomplish something, not to look up details on the properties
of the software, though there are obvious exceptions (e.g., the task-based
information for an encyclopedia would be limited to how to look up reference
information). So the trick becomes knowing what your audience intends to do
with the software: once you know that, you know to what extent your
information must be task-based. Whether the information should be task-based
has very little to do with the audience's degree of computer literary, and
more to do with what they want to do with the software. The level of detail
you must supply does depend on their literacy, but that's a whole other

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens

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