Re: Best Documentation

Subject: Re: Best Documentation
From: Ginna Dowler <gdowler -at- questercorp -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 07 Feb 2000 15:10:17 -0800

Anthony Markatos wrote:
> When was the last time that you participated in or witnessed a tech comm
> project that fell apart because of poor writing skills?
> Note: I don't mean situations in which, because of poor task analysis,
> estimating, graphics, or project management, the writing did not make sense.
> I mean situations in which these other things were properly done, but
> things fell apart because of poor writing technique.
> In over fifteen years of tech comm experience, including leadership of some
> very large scale projects, I have never experinced such.

It depends on how you define "tech comm" project. And I can give you an
example of a project which was badly damaged by poor writing. We make
electronic equipment for trains, and in one situation (before I started,
of course), our maintenance instructions were poorly written and almost
incomprehensible, even to us. The writer had poor grammar skills, used a
number of different terms for the same thing, and was genenerally
sloppy. The task analysis was fine, the drawings were fine. It was the
actual text which was awful. What did the maintenance workers do when
they couldn't understand the instructions? They either did something
wrong, often damaging the box, or they threw up their hands and shipped
it back for warranty repair, even when it wasn't really broken. Cost us
a whole lotta money, and my bosses are well and truly sold on the value
of good writing.

Writing may be the last step in the process, but it's still important.
It's definitely the foundation of what we do. Your data flow diagrams
may rock the world, but you still need to turn them into some sort of
usable text. And if it doesn't make sense, it could cost big money.

Ginna Dowler
Project Manager and Documentation Supervisor
Quester Tangent Corporation
Sidney, BC
gdowler -at- questertangent -dot- com

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