Re. What's a girl to do?

Subject: Re. What's a girl to do?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 May 2000 16:37:33 -0400

Wendy in Ohio reports <<Our new corporate marketing person just sent me...
Release Notes that he just wrote for the latest release of our software...
He mentioned that he took it straight from the text that I sent him with a
few changes. I don't know where he got the original text, because the only
thing I recognize are the topics... I think I'll send him back a note that
says... "Other than the inconsistency of tense, gross overuse of passive
voice, unnecessarily large words, technical jargon, sentences that should be
broken into *paragraphs*, and stressing the unimportant details over the
improvements, yea... it's fine!">>

That would be awfully satisfying, as would rewriting it from scratch and
sending it back to him with the note "I took it straight from the text you
sent me, with a few changes". Both would probably be career-limiting moves,
unless your career expectations don't include a long or happy future with
that company. Long-term, you're going to want to get along with the newbie,
and that means figuring out a polite way to explain that his efforts, while
noble, simply don't match the corporate style for release notes and that
you'd be happy to explain to him why that's the case. (Assuming that's true.
If not, you may want to talk to a manager to gain support for your proposed
changes to the style.)

Would it really take you a week to rewrite the release notes? Unless I'm
misunderstanding what you're talking about, this should be a matter of a few
hours work at most: list the important points as you see them, explain
what's important about them, and leave it at that. Oh yeah... and thank the
marketer for providing such an inspirational source document, but do it
nicely so you're helping the poor sap fit in at the company rather than
dumping all over his <ahem> literary style. This will definitely use up time
you'd rather be spending elsewhere, but it might prove a good investment in
your future relationship.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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