RE: Minimalist or low-level

Subject: RE: Minimalist or low-level
From: "Groenewege, mevr. M." <m -dot- groenewege -at- lvnl -dot- nl>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 2002 11:25:58 +0100

Hi Scott

I don't think one way of writing is inherently better than the other; IMO,
both techniques complement each other. In one of their articles, Carroll and
van der Meij mention 'fading': if a procedure occurs frequently throughout a
manual, put it in a low-level form on first occurrence, and gradually
diminish the details, until what's left is what *you call* a minimalist

I deliberately put it this way, because a procedure in itself is never
minimal; to produce minimal documentation does *not* mean chunking at all
expense (that's information mapping TM/C/R/$$, not minimalism; Geoff Hart
devoted some attention to this issue in his article "Ten technical
communication myths", and Carroll and van der Meij wrote an article on
misconceptions about minimalism).

Rather, minimalism is about knowing your audience, and giving them what they
need, in terms of information, procedure forms, layout and method. Hans van
der Meij advised on a very successful line of Dutch minimal computer manuals
for elderly people. One of the titles is "Help your parents surf the
Internet"; in this book the computer skills of children are used to create a
safe environment for inexperienced parents to explore their computer. I
thought this was an excellent idea. On expert/technical user level too, I've
seen minimalism work for task oriented information.

Having said this, does anyone here have an opinion (or even better:
research) about minimalistic approaches for *conceptual* information? In
theory, conceptual information should be related to a task, but in practise,
some types of information just don't fit. I realise that this topic may rub
against the tiny hairs in some people's necks, but I firmly believe that how
you shape and transfer information does matter (and it's something I enjoy
doing :-P).

Scott, sorry to have wondered from your original question, HTH anyway.

Maaike Groenewege
(who, although still a she, doesn't mind Techwhirlers addressing her as he,
as long as it doesn't become it)

> Subject: Minimalist or low-level?
> From: "Parsons, Scott" <Scott -dot- Parsons -at- ps -dot- net>
> Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 18:57:56 -0600
> X-Message-Number: 75

Can anyone
> provide me with a reason why low-level writing is better than
> minimalist?
> Or, vice-versa?

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