How formal or informal?

Subject: How formal or informal?
From: Jo Baer <jbaer -at- mailbox1 -dot- tcfbank -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 08 Mar 2001 17:27:45 -0600

Our department writes various types of documentation for a bank. Our
manuals range from policy and procedure manuals used in the bank
branches to system manuals used by analysts and programmers. (We still
call them programmers, not engineers.) The policy and procedure manuals
are aimed at more or less entry-level people. We also produce documents
aimed at the supervisors and managers of bank departments and branches.

Many of the entry-level people who (we would like to think) use the
policy and procedure manuals speak English as a second language. We
wonder if informal writing--that is, writing that uses contractions,
perhaps a more "folksy" tone (although no slang or colloquialisms)--is
appropriate and easily understood by this audience. We intend to ask
various people in the bank for their opinions, but we'd like some
comments from the list as well. We also wonder if it's a problem to use
the same style in manuals directed toward the analysts and programmers.

So--what is your experience, if any, with this issue? I'd be happy to
summarize the responses.


Jo Baer
Senior Technical Writer
TCF National Bank
Minneapolis, Minnesota
jbaer -at- mailbox1 -dot- tcfbank -dot- com

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