Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question))

Subject: Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question))
From: "John Fleming" <johnf -at- ecn -dot- ab -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 16 Jun 2001 09:45:05 -0600

> Subject: RE: Interviews (5 Year Question)
> From: "Diane Evans" <dianee -at- lockstream -dot- com>
> Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 12:04:11 -0700
> X-Message-Number: 35

> This thread has been very interesting to read. I work for a small
> that wasn't quite sure what a technical writer was, just knew that
> needed one. They gave me two problems to solve similar to the
> giraffe-in-the-refrigerator. I answered both quickly, then
responded with a
> problem for them to solve -- which they were unable to do. Later
(after I
> was hired) I explained that their problems were geared towards
> thinking, where mine was geared towards pattern recognition. In the
> writing field, pattern recognition (being able to discover order
> chaos) is a much more valuable skill than logical thinking (also
> valuable!).

I was talking to our project supervisor the other day, and she made an
interesting comment on the way technical writers think and how we
write instructions.

Over the years, she interviewed and hired and worked with a lot of
technical writers, and her observation is that, as a group, we are
really good at writing sequential instructions--instructions typical
of tool use and where order is important.

For example, to refuel care
1. Is engine off?
a. If no, turn engine off
2. Open fuel filler door.
3. Remove fuel cap from fuel inlet.
4. Take pump nozzle from holder on pump.
4. Place pump nozzle in fuel inlet.
5. Turn pump on
6. When tank is full, turn pump off.
7. Remove pump nozzle from fuel inlet
8. Place pump nozzle back in holder on pump.
9. Replace fuel cap.
10. Close fuel filler door.
11. Pay cashier
*End Procedure

Where we run into trouble, and one of the reasons tech writers don't
seem to survive long on this project, is that we are documenting work
flow, where order may be dictated more by best practices than by
necessity, and where the need to perform some steps my be determined
by the results of other steps.

For example, someone phones to establish service at a location.

1. Determine if caller is existing customer
2. If caller is existing customer, is customer transferring
service from
an old location to new location?
a. If yes, go to step 11.
b. If no, go to step 6
3. If not existing customer, Determine if customer is former
customer or new customer.
a. If new customer go to step 5.
b. If customer former customer determine time
service ended
i. If less than two years, go to 4.
ii. If two years or more, go to 5.
4. Determine reason former customer ended service.
a. If service terminated for non payment of
account, go to step 9
b. Else go to 7.
5. <Steps to establish new account>
6. <Steps to establish service for account at new location>
*End procedure
7. <Steps to re-establish service to inactive account>
8. Determine if service to old location or new location
a. If service to new location, go to 6.
b. If service to old location, go to 13
9. <Steps to re-establish service to delinquent account>
10. Determine if service to old location or new location.
a. If service to new location, go to 6.
b. If service to old location, go to 13
11. <Steps to end service at old location.>
12. Go to step 6.
13. <Steps to re-establish service at old location.>
*End Procedure

Is this a good observation? Are we, as writers, better at certain
kinds of instructions than others?


John Fleming
Technical Writer
Edmonton, Alberta
email: johnf -at- ecn -dot- ab -dot- ca


*** Deva(tm) Tools for Dreamweaver and Deva(tm) Search ***
Build Contents, Indexes, and Search for Web Sites and Help Systems
Available now at or info -at- devahelp -dot- com

Sponsored by Cub Lea, specialist in low-cost outsourced development
and documentation. Overload and time-sensitive jobs at exceptional
rates. Unique free gifts for all visitors to

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.


Previous by Author: Re: Interviews (5 Year Question)
Next by Author: Re: Interviews (5 Year Question)
Previous by Thread: Re: Where do you see yourself in 5 years
Next by Thread: RE: Thinking Patterns (was RE: Interviews (5 Year Question))

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads