Difference btn Trainers and Tech Writers (was RE: DON'T DO IT!!!)

Subject: Difference btn Trainers and Tech Writers (was RE: DON'T DO IT!!!)
From: Megan Golding <mgolding -at- secureworks -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2002 17:47:07 -0400

-----Original Message-----
From: David Downing
Sent: 8/9/02 3:01 PM
Subject: DON'T DO IT!!!

The procedure for programming number into
the phone's memory is essentially the same un both places, except that
the cheat sheet has "Do NOT lift the handset" as the first step. The
author of the official manual apparently thought that was implicit the
omission of "Lift the handset," but the trainer told us that everybody
just automatically lift the handset -- and the procedure doesn't work.

------ ---------

In a previous job, I split my time between training and manual-writing. With
my experience and after reading David's story, I am reminded of the major
difference between trainers and manual writers. Trainers write their
procedures and refine them with practice. They watch how people use a
system, then write the procedure again. Trainers add little tips they find
themselves repeating in class. Another trick I found myself doing when
training & writing manuals was icorporating answers to FAQ's into my docs.
That is, if a question was asked several times in several courses, I figured
my explanation wasn't quite enouth, so I'd add a tip.

My manuals at that previous company were very well-read and well-regarded.
"No, really, the help files ARE helpful," I'd hear tech support people
saying on the phone to customers. Heh.

The bottom line is that trainers -- or anyone with customer "touch" for that
matter -- are in a great position to help write practical procedures. In my
current position, I wrote a user's guide that I still regard as
inferior...mainly because I don't see how customers use the product, don't
see how they learn to install it, and don't hear their questions about the
product. All of these add to improving the documentation.

>From my experiences, I'd theorize that the practicality of documented
procedures improves with more time spent with actual users.

Meg Golding
Technical Writer, recovering Trainer

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