Re: The origins of task-oriented writing as a preference

Subject: Re: The origins of task-oriented writing as a preference
From: "Beth Kane" <bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com>
To: <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 09:51:33 -0700

I can't tell you the origins of the movement, but I think that jargon first
appeared in the late 1980s.

Your managers are right on. "Movements" aside, good tech writers have ALWAYS
supplied how-to instructions right up front, and that's all "task-oriented"
means. How-tos are the top priority.

First tell people how to do the things they bought the software to do. Then
supply reference material as a bonus. A good manual set includes both the
how-to and the reference info. Don' t make your users labor through a sea of
reference material to dig out the steps that tell how to do something. Push
the theory to the back of the book. Get the tasks up front and add
cross-references to the deeper stuff.

I'm a huge fan of task-focused docs, because as a computer user, that's
always what I'M looking for -- how do I do this? The reference stuff is nice
but not as necessary. Making how-tos the top priotiy has nothing to do with
computer-illiteracy; it's the right thing to do for the users.

Beth Kane
Senior Technical Writer
Total Control Information Inc.
bethkane -at- tcisolutions -dot- com

-----Original Message-----
Our management has discovered we need "task-oriented" writing rather
than "reference-oriented" writing in our manuals.

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