Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool

Subject: Re: Jargon Lovin' Fool
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2001 09:34:04 -0700 (PDT)

Douglas S. Bailey (AL) wrote...

> Exactly. They just want to use achieve their goal, they don't want to
> to learn a new way of doing things. They don't want to have to _think_,
> period. They'd prefer to reserve thinking for more important things.
> wanting to think about learning doesn't mean they're idiots.

Huh? So, people can remain ignorant and still be smart?

I think a lot of us are struggling for a handle on what our audiences are
like. We're all making wild generalizations about people (this includes
me). There seems to be two camps here:

1) The reader does not care about the material, therefore give the reader
the bare minimum to get the job done.

2) The reader does care about the material, therefore give the reader the
complete picture of the situation.

I think both of these are useful, but neither is mutually exclusive. There
are times, when the bare minimum will suffice. The reader neither needs or
wants to know more. However, there is equally a case for being thorough
and educating the reader with a complete picture of the technology and
jargon in question.

I also think that any document will have readers on both sides of this
fence. Some readers will want to know more. They will want conceptual and
background information. Others will reject this and merely want a
step-by-step "get this job done" kind of approach.

So, any document begins with a premise:

1. The reader is ignorant of this technology and does not wish to learn
any more than he/she has to. Thus, the reader must be sheltered from all
extraneous information.

2. The reader is ignorant of this technology and does wish to learn about
it. Thus, the reader should be exposed to as much information as possible
and practical.

I prefer to give readers both - instructions and education (premise 2). I
feel that if readers don't want an education, they can skip over to the
instructions. But the education is there for those that want it. I have
success with this. I prefer this kind of documentation, my clients demand
it, and readers seem to like it.

However, if hiding all the jargon from them is working for you (premise 1)
- then happy days. But, realize there are times when the reader wants and
expects more than just instructions. They want to know why.

Andrew Plato

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