Re: Minimalist or low-level?

Subject: Re: Minimalist or low-level?
From: Brad Jensen <brad -at- elstore -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 4 Mar 2002 18:22:51 -0600

----- Original Message -----
From: "Parsons, Scott" <Scott -dot- Parsons -at- ps -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Monday, March 04, 2002 6:57 PM
Subject: Minimalist or low-level?

> Hi,
> My co-workers are minimalist procedure writers and I'm a low-level
> writer. That is, I write "On the File menu, click Open" while they write
> "open the record."

You are kidding, right?

The reason most of us read the manual is to get help with something
unfamiliar, or when we can't get a procedure to work the way we expect it
to. A manual that says 'open the record' instead of the actual detailed
procedure to follow, is not a manual. It's an overview.

If you write the manual to the target audience that doesn't need it, they
won't read it anyways. You might as well leave the pages blank, at least
then you wouldn't be misdirecting the reader.

best yet would be

Open the bold face, as a lead-in. Then your detailed steps to do

What their overview will lead to is:

a bewildered user
who becomes
an frustrated user
who becomes and angry and defensive user
who then calls tech support
or else goes to an email list like this one,
and trashes your product and docs in front
of ten or twenty thousand of your best prospects.

Didn't Dante put vague procedure writers in the second or third circle of

Write so there is no ambiguity. Be creatively redundant. Remember the reader
most likely has their mind on several other things while they are reading
your manual. If the reader's ego is also inflamed because they feel
defensive about not understanding the product operation, you need to present
a clear, calming, matter of fact presence. Write worst-case docs, not
best-case docs. You aren't writing for the average user. The average user
won't be reading it. You are writing for the person who is in trouble, who
needs help.

How helpful are you? Leaving things out is not helpful.

Don't write crap. If the other people in your group write crap, unless you
are their boss it isn't your job to improve their performance. Don't act
insecure, just do your job correctly, and if your boss asks you why, say
why. And don't be a tatlletale either.Leave the other writers out of it. Do
have ask the techs to review your semi-final draft.

Brad Jensen

Now's a great time to buy RoboHelp! You'll get SnagIt screen capture
software and a $200 onsite training voucher FREE when you buy RoboHelp
Office or RoboHelp Enterprise. Hurry, this offer expires February 28, 2002.

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Minimalist or low-level?: From: Parsons, Scott

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