RE: Humor in technical writing

Subject: RE: Humor in technical writing
From: Barry Kieffer <bkieffer -at- ims -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 09:09:01 -0700 (PDT)

As any senior technical writer will tell you:

Humor in technical writing? No, don't do it.

Why? I will list some real life examples.

As reported in the STC magazine a few years ago, humor in a computer manual led
to a death and a law suit. In this case the computer manufacturer created a
humorous guide to how to connect your computer and all of the peripheral stuff.
In this case some empty-headed degenerate jammed a screwdriver into the case and
electrocuted their sorry a**. It all went to hell when the lawyers got involved.
The bottom line that came out in the court proceedings was that by using humor
the manufacturer gave the impression that there was nothing dangerous. The humor
"lulled" the user into a disregard for safety, or some such. You can search the
STC archives and can probably find the story.

Another example is that what I think is funny, Jim or Jane Lunchbox does not. I
find some examples of humor condecending. That is why I only own one "Dummies"
book (FrameMaker). When I pick up a manual, reference, or text, it is because I
want (need) to find out something. I hate it when I have to sift through some
useless humorous drivel to get to the information I am looking for.

Ask your corporate lawyer, ISO auditor, QA/QC person, or safety person, if they
think you should use humor. Wanna guess their answer?


Best Regards,

Barry Kieffer
Senior Technical Writer
Integrated Measurement Systems, Inc.
Beaverton, Oregon
Phone: (503) 469-3615
Email: bkieffer -at- ims -dot- com

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