RE: Humor in technical writing

Subject: RE: Humor in technical writing
From: "walden miller" <wmiller -at- vidiom -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 09:26:49 -0600

About twelve years ago, my senior writer at Microware Systems was working on
a networking manual in which she needed to explain master/slave
relationships for the OS-9 NFS network. In her example, she named the
master, Mick, and the slave, Keith. The ensuing discussion of Mick's and
Keith's relationship was accurate as far as networking was concerned, but it
was a hoot as far as the Stones were concerned.

My favorite example of humor in manuals (also from about 12 years ago) comes
from the FrameMaker 1.0 and 2.0 manuals (maybe even 3.0). All of their
example documents in the manuals were created in the fictional world of
Buckaroo Banzai (sp?). Letters from John Bigbootie, etc. They were
consistent throughout the 1000 or so pages. It made for quite entertaining
reading while learning Frame 1.0.

I have attempted to follow in FrameMaker's footsteps to some degree in our
company's style manual. Consistent humor in all examples of accepted and
unacceptable styles. The writers that have used the style manual over the
years have generally enjoyed it. Only one writer that I can remember
"didn't get it." But even without understanding the silly humor, that
writer could use the style manual effectively.

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