Rewriting and streamlining?

Subject: Rewriting and streamlining?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 13:08:44 -0500

Geri Lou Ciotoli reports: <<I have been assigned the task of rewriting and
streamlining an existing manual set (of approx 6000 pages) and I'm having
trouble figuring out how to begin. As I'm looking at these manuals, it
would be easy to just start editing which would only "reword" the existing
manuals; that's not what I want to do. What I need to do is really
streamline and incorporate procedural step by step instructions. The manuals
are currently informational type manuals of an intro, screen and the
screen's field definitions (of course with informational and conceptual info
as well).>>

If the text in the old material is reusable to any large extent, one good
way to start would be to develop a fairly comprehensive outline for your
proposed new manual, then copy and paste any of the existing text that you
can use into the outline to fill in the details. Anything left uncopied in
the original manual deserves some thought about whether it's an important
point that you missed or simply information that is no longer relevant.

If the old manual isn't all that useful "as is", you're probably going to
save time by rewriting the documentation from scratch rather than trying to
edit it. Among other things, turning descriptive information into task-based
information requires heavy editing, and doing this plus verifying the
results takes a long time and often produces worse results than if you
started over from the beginning. In this case, the old manual serves as a
useful reference in two ways: it tells you answers to questions that the
previous authors had to ask the SMEs, and it lets you know whether you've
covered everything in your rewrite.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
FERIC, 580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Quebec
H9R 3J9

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