Re: When does terseness= rudeness (was whenever or as)

Subject: Re: When does terseness= rudeness (was whenever or as)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 May 2001 10:33:46 -0700

David Downing wrote:

>I have, in the past, made the mistake of equating excessive
> chattiness with user-friendliness, However, I think you can go too far
> the other way. In the interest of verbal economy, you can come off
> sounding rude and hostile. (I had a friend back in college who used to
> get on my case for being too verbose when writing notes on peoples'
> message boards. I'm forced to agree that some of those notes could have
> been a bit tighter, but I still think some of her notes sounded rude and
> hostile.) Where do others stand on this issue.

The connections you suggest often hold true, but not always.

I'm starting to get feedback in reviews and user groups about my last
manual. It covered the basics of an entire Linux operating system (the
one I'm using right now), so I not only had to be as terse as possible,
but also had to go crazy with bullet points, procedures, tables, and any
other structural dodge that would save space. Although it's as concise
as I could possibly make it, several reviewers and users have praised it
for being simple but neither condescending nor rude.

I mention this not to brag (although, let's be honest, I'm over the moon
to hear that people think I've done what I tried to do), but because it
illustrates something that I've often thought: depending on the
audience, too much verbosity can sound as if you don't trust your
readers. Get too chatty, and the impression can be that you're
belabouring the point because you suspect your readers lack the
intelligence to absorb your point quickly.

By contrast, in my last manual, I didn't start from scratch, since I
wanted to save space, and guessed that anyone who would try Linux would
be a reasonably adept computer user. This assumption was probably right,
but, more to the point, it assumed that my readers had a degree of
knowledge. I think that it's that assumption that people have been
responding to.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com

"Maybe there were two sides to that affair of Cain,
And Judas was a tolerable chap."
-G. K. Chesterton


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