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Amen, Dick. I find it amazing that people would say "don't use humor because someone won't get the joke". Even more amazing: "don't use humor because someone might get offended". Exactly what kind of humor are we talking about here, anyway? The suggestion seems to be that someone might get offended just at the fact that humor was used. How justifiable is that? And do we really want to make it a practice to run away and hide from such a person? I certainly don't.
When I originally questioned the term "risky", I think I was intending to point out that everything we do as information designers, every decision we make has risks. Some of us try to hide from those risks by sticking to an established template, avoiding doing anything innovative. But that doesn't mean the risk goes away, it's just different. If we use the same templates and style for a consumer product as we did for a municipal planning system (major hyperbole alert), we risk utterly failing to communicate effectively.
When we hear someone say "don't use humor because you'll lose some of your audience", don't forget that we *never* reach 100% of our audience. We simply try to do our best for as many people as we can. When considering using humor, the question is not "will we lose people?", but rather "will we gain more people than we lose?". And, as always, this is all about learning about and communicating with your audience.
Tech Writer III
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