re: Get to the point?

Subject: re: Get to the point?
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: techwr-l digest recipients <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 02 Sep 2000 19:33:50 -0700

"Sierra Godfrey" <kittenbreath -at- hotbot -dot- com> wrote:

>For you minimalist tech writers, do you think this at all applies to how we write technical information? >Obviously marketing material and technical materials are entirely different things, not the least of why >because our audiences are different.

Getting to the point is a good idea in any modern writing. Modern
readers don't have the patience to endure (for example), a three
page introduction that starts with a man walking down a road, the
way that a couple of Thomas Hardy's books do. Personally, I like
a leisurely pace, at least in some moods, but it just doesn't
play for many readers today.

In tech-writing, it's especially important. If my contention is
right that readers scan docs rather than read them, then getting
to the point is essential. Personally, I find myself getting
impatient even with introductories to a procedure like, "To
configure the widget:".

But the worst case of not getting to the point that I remember
was in several releases of a manual from a well-known Linux
company (no names, but it had a hugely successful IPO last year,
and many people identify it with Linux :-) ). In a manual of no
more than 300 words, it took about 3 pages of folksy writing to
explain the cat command - and took at least a page and a half
before it explained what the command was actually good for.

To be fair, I believe that the latest version of the manual is
more to the point, but this example has stuck with me as an
illustratio of how not to write.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com | Tel: 604.421.7189

"They sought in kirk, they sought in hall,
The lady was na' seen,
She's o'er the border and awa'
Wi' Jock o' Hazeldean."
-Sir Walter Scott, "Jock o' Hazeldean"

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