Re: HOW TOs?

Subject: Re: HOW TOs?
From: MichaelHuggins -at- aol -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Feb 2002 09:51:45 EST

>Pardon me for putting this bluntly, but I suspect your boss also knows that
have limited technical writing knowledge. Here's the blunt part: Do what your
boss wants. <

Pardon me for putting this equally bluntly, Tom, but you could perhaps benefit from a judicious application of Preparation-H before answering posts.

Radwa, Tom is as mistaken about documentation as he is about you. Since we don't know you or your work situation, we can't tell whether your boss's view is based on his estimate of your own background for this work or on something else altogether.

In any case, your boss's view is flawed. An explanation of all fields in an application should be *part* of the documentation, but it no more makes, by itself, a user manual than a dictionary, by itself, teaches someone how to speak a language.

If you supply readers with nothing but field descriptions and no procedures, the sufficiently diligent reader will eventually learn, inductively, how to use the application, but you will have supplied a partial artifact and effectively imposed on your reader. Obviously, you share this concern.

It is true that in the end, your boss's view will prevail. Meanwhile, your own professional instincts, as you have already realized, make it appropriate for you to constructively suggest a more complete and useful approach.

I might suggest that you write a few pages of nothing but what your manager wants, and then write a few sample pages providing procedures, and show them to your manager side by side. You might also suggest a brief usability test on some volunteers who know nothing about the application.

Perhaps your manager will be convinced, and perhaps not. But you are right to want to show him something better than what he is asking for. If he does not adopt your approach this time, perhaps he will in the future, or, if he eventually changes positions, perhaps his replacement will one day see the value of what you suggest. Good luck.

Michael Huggins

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