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Actually, Barry, if you search the STC archives you'll find this is not a real life example at all. It was a fictional case study for the ethics column in one of the STC journals (it's fresh in my mind because someone else used the same example several months ago).
From: Barry Kieffer [mailto:bkieffer -at- ims -dot- com]
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 12:09 PM
Subject: RE: Humor in technical writing
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.
Tracy Boyington tracy_boyington -at- okcareertech -dot- org
Oklahoma Department of Career & Technology Education
Stillwater, OK http://www.okvotech.org/cimc