RE: Best Documentation

Subject: RE: Best Documentation
From: "Kathi Jan Knill" <Kathi -dot- Knill -at- level8 -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2000 14:12:02 -0500

Tony Markatos said:
SNIP: ~~ When was the last time that you participated in or witnessed a
tech comm
project that fell apart because of poor writing skills?
~~... things fell apart because of poor writing technique.

As a matter of coincidence, I was recently told that a company's doc was so
bad that they
got complaints about it when the software release occurred. I picked up a
copy of the doc
and was appalled that the author chose to call himself an "experienced" tech
There was no formatting, no thought to page layout, style, etc. The writing
itself was inconsistent and almost totally passive in tone. While wordy, the
extra words served little purpose other than to
fill up space.

Did the project fail or fall apart? Literally no, the ENTIRE project did not
fail. The software was still of the same high quality that it would have
been without doc and only the doc lacked quality. Was the software release a
success? I would say no. In my experience, when a company does a software
release, when customers call customer service with problems, comments, etc.,
there is generally nothing said about doc. No good and no bad. It seems to
mean that if customers actually complain about the doc, then the doc portion
of the project was a failure.

I may stand alone on this one but I believe that the documentation that I
produce is a product in and of itself. If that product is not up to
standards, then it is a failure regardless of the success or failure of the
software/hardware/etc. about which the doc was written. The doc project was
a failure.

So, yes, I think that writing skills do play a very important role in
technical communication (at least of the written kind).

However, this is just MHO.

Kathi Jan Knill
Sr. Technical Writer
Level 8 Systems
Kathi -dot- Knill -at- Level8 -dot- com
The one unchangeable certainty is that nothing is unchangeable or certain. ~
John F. Kennedy ~

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