Re: Documenting field descriptions in printed documentation

Subject: Re: Documenting field descriptions in printed documentation
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 06:10:58 -0600

Tom Murrell wrote:

> Well, so much for collegiality, working out our differences, team
> building, and harmonious work relationships.

Tom, I'm all about teamwork. Part of teamwork is each member doing what
they're supposed to do. IMO, if EVERYTHING is a group decision, efficiency
suffers, bigtime. Think about it: When a deadline is announced, do you
launch a "team-building exercise" so that everybody can "share their
feelings" about the deadline? Or do you say "It's due in two weeks - we
better get a move on"? Most businesses are not democracies - we have
bosses who tell us what to do. I'm suggesting that you appoint a Style
Boss. You want democracy? Then VOTE on who that person will be.

> Sure, you can do it that way, if the style guru has the necessary
> support and can stand the constant sniping at every decision.

If the style guru has the necessary support (ie, cooperation and
compliance), there should BE no sniping. There should be shutting up and

> I still think a better way is to hash it out in a group and put
> the decisions into a style guide that everyone agrees to follow.

I'm down with the last half of that statement: "...everyone agrees to
follow." But my experience in trying to get a group consensus on each
piddly little style decision is that it takes FOREVER, and that there will
always be somebody who's discontented with the results, no matter how
democratically they were achieved.

> When you have to work together toward a common goal, you can do it in
> a tyranny for awhile, but not over the long haul.

Maybe my glibly mentioned "style nazi" term spawned this "tyranny" take on
this. But I assume you have a boss. Does the fact that you have to do what
he or she tells you mean that you're living under a tyrant? Or simply that
somebody has been given decision-making authority? I agree, a good team
SHOULD work together toward a common goal. But most good teams have
leaders, to help keep them focused on that goal. Strong leaders are not
necessarily tyrants.

Again, maybe I'm jaded, but I've encountered a LOT of tech writers who
obviously do NOT subscribe to the "don't sweat the small stuff"
philosophy. And the historic "spaces after a period" and "tool wars"
threads that keep popping up on this list support my belief that many tech
writers choose to place enormous importance on small, subjective issues,
which potentially obstruct them from their greater goal: getting a doc out
the door.

I've worked in both scenarios: a team deciding on their styles through
discussion and debate, and a team selecting a Designated Driver for their
style decisions. I much prefer the latter. Your mileage obviously varies.
But have you tried both approaches?

Keith Cronin

Have a nice day. Unless of course you object to me suggesting what sort of
day you should have. I don't mean to tell you what to do. It's really none
of my business. In fact, I now regret saying it. I do hope your day meets
your expectations, but I don't want you to feel pressured by me saying so.
So let's just drop it. Fine.

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