Re: Here's why formatting and layout can really matter:

Subject: Re: Here's why formatting and layout can really matter:
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 09 Nov 2000 09:49:51 -0800

Dan Hall wrote:
> Frankly, if you can't correctly fill out this ballot, where the arrows
> clearly point to the correct holes to punch and the numbers by the candidate
> names correspond to the numbers by the holes, you probably shouldn't be
> allowed to vote.

Intelligence has nothing to do with it. Even the most intelligent
can make a mistake with a poor design or under poor conditions.

This ballot sets up a convention, then violates it. In the first
column, the holes are to the right of the name. But, in the second
column, the holes are to the left of the name. Anyone who knew that
they were going to vote for Gore might very well stop when they came
to his name and not look at the rest of the ballot carefully enough
to see that the convention had changed.

Given that people may be nervous or excited and possibly in a crowd,
when they go to vote, or possibly impatient after they've waited
their turn, the chance of anyone misreading the ballot becomes
reasonably high. And if the reports are correct, the sample ballot
looked different, so the confusion becomes even more understandable.

> Obligatory TW tie-in: how much additional effort should we expend after
> providing clear directions that could be followed by someone of average
> intelligence? Write very slowly and in large letters so the audience can
> follow along. <g> Step-by-step directions in baby-talk, anyone? <vbg>

Answer: as much effort as needed. If your audience is very old, or
going to be reading in the dark, then use large letters by all
means. And isn't step by step directions part of a tech writer's
stock in trade? :-)

As for "baby talk": Isaac Asimov, the science popularizer, was often
criticized for the simplicity of his style. His defence was somthing
like this:

People have made elaborate, stain glass windows for a thousand
years. However, large, clear planes of glass are a much newer
invention, and require a much more sophisticated technology.

In other words, writing simply is a greater mark of skill than
writing in convoluted sentences.

Bruce Byfield, Outlaw Communications
Contributing Editor, Maximum Linux
604.421.7189 bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com

"The king works backwards, day and night,
Says you went left when you should have gone right,
Try to do undo what you've once done wrong,
The king works backwards all day long."
- Pete Morton

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