Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool

Subject: Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 11:55:33 -0700

Andrew Plato wrote:

The inverse of this is true as well. Many geeks will find attempts at
converting perfectly good jargon to "friendly terms" as proof that the
writer (and hence the maker of the product) are clueless and uncredible.

In general, I agree; when writing for geeks, use geek dialect. But when I'm writing for non-geeks, I'm not concerned with what the geeks will think. They won't be reading it. Anyway, my credibility or lack of it will be established among the geeks by my everyday behavior long before I produce a manual.

However, in most cases, a neutral word, such as "start" for "boot,"is acceptable to anybody.

There are some cases, too, in which the jargon word has to be used, either because there is no alternative, or because it is so widely used that if your audience is inevitably going to hear it, and might as well get used to it.

When it comes to network security products (something I am very much
involved with), I can tell after reading just a few pages whether the
writer knew what he/she was talking about by how many complex ideas he/she
glossed over with "friendly words." I want information, not a hug and some
chamomile tea.

I've seen many manuals like this, too. But why do you imagine that technical knowledge and a careful selection of words are mutually exclusive? They're not. Or, if they are, it's only because many writers are lacking one or the other. Andrew is right to chastize tech-writers who aren't technical, but it's equally proper to criticize those who can't write.

In any case, users don't just want information - they want information that they can quickly absorb and that they can quickly find. Being aware of connotation can help achieve this goals.

I admit, though, that after several years of working with Linux, my perspective may be a little different from many writers'. Linux has hundreds of thousands of pieces of documentation, all full of information. Unfortunately, almost all of them are poorly organized and written, and so of little use to new users - as Andrew, I seem to remember, found out when he ventured into Linux networking a few months back. To make a difference in this situation, I have to emphasize wording (and not a single geek has ever accused me of over-simplifying or not understanding my topic, by the way).

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

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Jargon Lovin' Fool: From: Andrew Plato

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