RE: Humor in technical writing

Subject: RE: Humor in technical writing
From: Mike Stockman <stockman -at- jagunet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 14:58:39 -0400

On 09/28/00 12:19 PM, rhoggan -at- lewis -dot- com (rhoggan -at- lewis -dot- com) wrote:

>>Humor in technical writing? No, don't do it.
>I agree completely. What might be funny to you, may be offensive to me. If
>your users need comic relief, they can turn on the TV set or go to a comedy
>act. Up to this point, I haven't found an employer that lets me spend eight
>hours a day watching television.

As with any other "hard and fast rule" about technical writing, the truth
is that it depends on your audience. If my audience is the same group
that is scarfing up millions of For Dummies books every year, I'd better
include some light-hearted or even mildly humorous references, or I'm not
serving my audience well.

The "Just Say No to Humor" rule can safely be replaced with "Use some
common sense, for goodness' sake." If you're dealing with a very serious
subject (warnings on avoiding brain damage, for example, or instructions
on how to handle the death of a loved one in your project planning
software), including humor is probably not the way to go. If, on the
other hand, you're telling people how to download the latest Metallica CD
in MP3 format, you pretty much have a joke in place already, so you might
as well finish it.

It all depends on your judgment, and the audience you're writing for.
Humor has its place in technical writing, as shown by millions of people
who pay real money for aftermarket documentation such as For Dummies and
Idiot's Guides.


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