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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