Re: A tech writer's koan

Subject: Re: A tech writer's koan
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Mandy Wells <mwells -at- valadeo -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Sep 2000 12:43:15 -0700 (PDT)

--- Mandy Wells <mwells -at- valadeo -dot- com> wrote:
> So Grasshopper, you are writing something for a company--other than
> the one that employs you--to be included with the other company's
> manual BUT the other company's manual isn't written very well
> (additional information masquerading as numbered steps and nasty
> stuff like that).
> Would you write your piece in your own, technically excellent style,
> knowing that it would be more useful to the end-user?
> Or would you write in the other company's icky style so your piece
> looks like it's an integrated part of the (nasty) whole?

I'll assume for the sake of argument that this writing you are doing
for the other company is some sort of a contract you have with them. In
short, you will be paid for your work.

If that's the case, I would make one, and only one, diplomatic attempt
to suggest that the entire document could be written/formatted better.
I would marshall my arguments carefully and provide a sample sufficient
to demonstrate what I'm saying and invite them to see the light.

If they want their style to remain as it is despite my powerful
arguments for "a better way," then I feel I have two choices. Either I
do it their way and happily pocket their money, doing the best job I
can for them, or I gracefully bow out of this arrangement, citing
pressure of my regular job or a life crisis or similar civilized excuse
and hop my little Grasshopper butt off to something else.

In short, I would write it their way if they don't want to change their
ways. If you took this job knowing that they wanted it done their way,
they have every right to expect that you will do it their way. If they
are ignorant of better ways, offer them the "true path" to
documentation nirvana, but don't be surprised if they are not yet
ready, little Grasshopper. The destination may be one, but the paths
are many.

Tom Murrell
Senior Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com

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