Re: Humor in technical writing

Subject: Re: Humor in technical writing
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: Techwrl-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Sep 2000 12:18:01 -0700 (PDT)

Humor is inside ALL writing. You just have to know how to release it properly.
Everything can be funny if you express it in the right way.

Enter your name and click OK.

vs.

Enter a name, preferably yours, and click OK.

Ha ha.

Not to be a snob, but most people haven't a flippin' clue how to write humor.
Just because you think something is funny does not mean the world does. Good
comedians have a strong sense of their audience and what they do and don't
njoy (like tech writers) They are also willing to endure extensive criticism
of their work (unlike tech writers).

No matter what humorous stuff I write, there is *always* some little twerp out
there who doesn't get it and says things like "this just isn't funny...you need
help." 9/10ths of the world could laugh uncontrollably at a joke, but there
are ALWAYS people who won't laugh and who have a problem with you because you
wrote the joke. These humorless dolts are always the first to tell you about
their extremely refined sense of humor and why you are simply not up to par.
Eh, shove a gopher in your hole you twit.

The type of humor that technical documents can tolerate is very dry, very
subtle humor, very Dennis Millerian. Stuff that is esoteric enough that those
who don't get it, just skip over it. Humor writing is perhaps the most
difficult style of writing. There is so much subjectivity to humor writing and
you are constantly working inside a shifting sea of mems, ideas, trends, fads,
and language. Best not to try.

Lastly, blindly ripping quotes from other people just underscores your
inability to come up with anything on your own. Sure, comedians borrow all the
time, but they always personalize it. I would not put funny quotes in a
technical document. It looks flaky.

And flaky is only good for frozen snack foods and pastries.

Andrew Plato

"Amy Probst" wrote in message ...

> I've been writing job aids for a new university-wide financial software
> system (Banner). Because this is my first techwriting job, I was really
> quite clueless as to what was expected of me, so took a stab and created
> what I thought would be well-received by and genuinely helpful to the user
> (within the guidelines given, of course, which were sparse).
>
> Because the content is pretty boring, I included humorous quotations in the
> footer of each page (I've pasted a random sampling below my name). I held
> my breath while my boss looked it over the first time, but he cracked up and
> really liked it. We had to make it through two more levels of review, but
> the content is sound and nobody complained about the humor.
>
> And though the intent is to keep the user's brain from numbing on the job,
> it's been a heck of a lot of fun for me, too. By the way, I've hand-picked
> a quality collection of quotes (sorry) that I'd be happy to pass along.



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