Fwd: Re: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees

Subject: Fwd: Re: What sayest me... on Worthless TC Degrees
From: Jean Ostrem <jostrem -at- tdl -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Wed, 29 Mar 2000 10:01:22 -0800

I haven't seen too many people agreeing with John Posada, so I think I'm going to jump in and agree with him.

I tend to use indexes, but the best user manual I ever saw didn't have an index. Actually, maybe it did. I don't know because I never needed the index. It was task-oriented, graphics-centric, and lovely. I spent something like 60 minutes skimming it, and then I knew enough about the operating system to get my work done. On rare occasions when I really needed to look something up, I grabbed the manual and flipped through it. No index needed because all I had to do was look for the picture that showed the screen I was on.

That manual was a true work of art. I revere it, and I try to emulate it wherever I can. But the things I write tend to be a lot pithier than end-user manuals on simple system tasks. So I index. A lot.

Time to delurk I think. John, I think you still have it wrong.
You are trying to imply that your document can be so 'good'
that an index is not required. Your carefully structured
body of information may make that information easy to find;
your ToC may help the reader to understand how your information
is structured - but all of this ASSUMES that YOUR approach to the
information is exactly the same as the reader's. Take word usage
as an example. A good writer will always use the same word to
mean the same thing. Your manual may have a whole section on
saving files - but if the reader knows only that the concept they are
seeking is called 'archiving' they could conclude that your manual
cannot help! Cross referencing from non-preferred terms is just
one of the many functions of an index.

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