Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool

Subject: Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool
From: Elna Tymes <Etymes -at- LTS -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 16:48:22 -0700

Andrew Plato wrote:

> I think most people are smart - its just that
> they revert to idiocy if they can. Most writers accept this as fact and
> therefore treat their readers like morons. Thus, you treat them like
> morons, they behave like morons.

It's been my experience that readers - of assorted sophistication levels - are
smart and do NOT revert to idiocy where they can. What they usually are is
incredibly busy doing whatever they're getting paid to do, and learning a new
piece of software is NOT what they're getting paid to do. So they usually
resent the learning process as a waste of their time, unless and until you, the
writer of the manual, can demonstrate that they will improve their productivity
at [whatever it is that they do] by learning to use this new piece of
software. They want to see an immediate return on their investment of time in
learning. Therefore it pays to speak their language, wherever possible, and
help them see practical applications of what they're learning. That language
isn't necessarily dumbed down, so much as it's as nearly standard English as
possible. And that means avoiding teaching them geek-speak unless it's really

To "boot" a computer is historical geek-speak, dating back well before the
advent of the PC. However it has been included in so many manuals that those
of us trying to explain computer terminology to ordinary users have assumed
that "boot the computer" is commonly understood. Microsoft, Sun, IBM, and
others who have produced often-referenced style guides generally prefer terms
like "start the computer" or "press the on/off switch" or something like that
when writing for ordinary users; "boot the computer" is a term you can easily
use with those who are programmers or other people involved in the computer

> My attitude has always been to educate my readers and give them more than
> just "do this, do that, buy an upgrade" kind of instructions. Give them
> the geek-speak and tell them what it all means. In the end - they learn
> something and you actually communicate something.

I doubt they learn what you intend. What they learn is that THIS writer of THIS
manual is forcing them to learn a new term, one which they may not need. If
the technical term is essential to communication of how this system works or
how to use that piece of software, fine. But if you're simply introducing the
term so that the ordinary user can learn to use geek-speak when talking with
customer support, I question its inclusion. There are times when it's
appropriate (we all remember the story about the customer who complained about
breaking his computer's cup holder, don't we?) and times when it's not.

> That 90% has to learn some time. Why not empower them with some words and
> education that they can use. If you treat them like babies - they will
> respond, like babies.

Speaking to them in their own language - that of standard English - is not the
same as treating them like babies. And I really question whether specialized
terms that they don't really need is empowerment or excess baggage.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

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Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool: From: Andrew Plato

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