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> Bruce, that's just an example. I think it is possible to loose credibility
> by talking down to expert users.
Agreed. And, as I said, it may not be a very good one. Can you give a better
example? It might help to focus the subject.
My sense is that experts are much more versatile and resiliant than beginners.
While a beginner may be overwhelmed by jargon, most experts will simply skip
over explanations they don't need until they find the substance they're looking
for. So long as the substance is there, and the explanations aren't too long or
too hard to distinguish, that's not much of a problem.
> We're not talking about writing clearly--we're talking about using jargon,
> which is sometimes anathema to writing clearly. But not always. Depends on
> the reader, which brings us back to my point.
OK - then is not using jargon automatically writing down to experts?
That depends, I'd suggest, on how necessary the jargon is. If no other
alternative exists, or if the jargon is so widely used that not introducing the
term would handicap your audience's attempts to learn more, then you're
certainly not doing any audience a service by leaving it out.
However, as the recent discussion about "deprecated functions" shows, jargon is
not always universal, even among those in the same field. In such a case, you
may even be doing the reader a disservice by introducing the jargon. In the
"boot/start" example, I feel comfortable choosing "start" because I've heard it
used about as often as "boot," and it has the bonus of being recognizable to a
larger range of people.
> The rest of your post seems to imply there is one universal style. I
> disagree. There is one universal PRINCIPLE (the idea of writing clearly),
> but there are different styles within that principle that apply to
> different users. Otherwise, there is no point in doing audience analysis.
If so, the implication wasn't intended.
However, I do think that there are some guiding principles that widely apply.
For me, one of those principles is "don't clutter up user manuals with anything
unnecessary." It assumes that people crack manuals with very practical and
sometimes urgent goals. That is, they want to know how to do something. If a
particular piece of jargon helps a particular audience achieve that goal, then
I'll use it. If not, then it only impedes them, and I won't use it.
Bruce Byfield bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com 604.421.7177
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