Re: Humor in Technical Writing REVISITED

Subject: Re: Humor in Technical Writing REVISITED
From: "David K. Rathbun" <drathbun -at- linguateq -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 13:06:20 -0400

This is a response to a theread that is a coupla weeks old by now. I waited
becasue I was looking for a citation, whihc I have been unable to find. It
was some legitimate tech writing book that said (to paraphrase) although the
text should be straight, you can get away with just about anything in your
examples. To wit:

When I developed my information plan here, I said that each document would
include "a glossary, index, and the obligatory technical writer's joke." I
told them right off what I would do.

At my previous job, where I documented point-of-sale software for
restaurants, I used the names of dead North American writers as the names of
the staff members that were shown in the reports. It got quite funny (well,
funny if you think that kind of thing is funny): Eugene O'Neill was a
bartender, Dorothy Parker was the host, Upton Sinclair was a meat-cutter,
Jack Kerouac was the delivery driver and so on. It carried over into the
street addresses shown on the staff reports, which were references to each
writer's best known work.

The names of the customers were living North American writers. For example,
I showed Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal sharing a table in the example for the
"joining two table checks" procedure, a reference to their decades-long

I remember it was a sad day when Robertson Davies died and I had to move all
references to him from the customer list to the staff list.

And to cap it off, the last entry in the index was: "Writers, American,

In my current position we are using jokes about James Joyce and _Ulysses_ in
all of our examples. For example, all of the dates in the reports are June
16, 2004, the centeniary of Bloomsday. The index includes the entry "Joyce,
James, _passim_".

Many years ago, I found in a Borland book index "parrots, dead, _see_ dead
parrots" and "dead parrots, _see_ parrots, dead" an obvious reference to
the well-known Monty Python sketch. This reminded one of the engineers of
another indexing joke: "recursive, _see_ recursive".

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