Re: Checking assumptions at the door (but NOT he vs she!)

Subject: Re: Checking assumptions at the door (but NOT he vs she!)
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 06 Jun 2001 10:51:00 -0700

"Christensen, Kent" wrote:

> Seems to me that if
> your software requires Windows 98, or something, then ability to run Windows
> 98 is a prerequisite and not to worry. Either the user read up on how to
> use Windows 98 or someone helped him or her and it can be assumed these same
> resources--ability to read or a helper--are available for understanding your
> product's instructions.

Like several other posters, I'm not sure that you can safely make these

However, it's often useful to state these assumptions at the start of a
manual. By doing so, you clarify for yourself who the manual is for, and
set a limit on what you will explain. You also tell readers what
information they need to have before using the software. Of course, some
will simply dive right in, but that will happen regardless of what you

For example, I recently finished a 450 manual on the basics of Linux. If
I had assumed that some readers would have no experience of computers
whatsoever, then the manual could easily have been twice the length.
However, in the opening chapter, I stated that I assumed that readers
knew the basics of desktop computing, such as using a mouse, and that I
would focus on how Linux differed from other common operating systems.
Then, in the chapter about the GNOME desktop, I started by saying that,
since I was assuming that readers would have used a graphical desktop, I
would emphasize the unique features of GNOME. Given that very few people
with no computer experience will have heard of Linux, or attempt to
install an operating system, this approach seemed sensible. It saved
space, and gave me something better to do in the opening chapter than
give a marketing pitch and an outline of the chapters.

So far, no one has complained (maybe, though, they just don't read the
manual; I take care not to inquire too closely).

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

"there's another train there always is
maybe the next one is yours get up and climb aboard
it's another train."
-Pete Morton, "Another Train"


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