RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?

Subject: RE: encouraging learning by experimentation?
From: "Gary S. Callison" <huey -at- interaccess -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2002 15:38:05 -0600 (CST)

On Tue, 10 Dec 2002, richard -dot- lippincott -at- ae -dot- ge -dot- com (Richard Lippincott) sez:
> What I would do is at the beginning of the steps to remove the fairings,
> insert a Note that advises the mechanic about the different sized bolts.
> Then, in the name of overkill, add five sub-steps to remove the fairing
> subsections, and in each sub-step list the length of the relevant bolt.
> That way, if the mechanic doesn't remember to keep the bolts sorted (or
> an assistant comes through, trips over a fairing, and sends all the
> bolts flying) it's easier to sort out which bolts go with which
> fairing.

I think there's a broader technical writing issue here. If this is a
"Fixing Your Motorcycle for the Complete Idiot" type book, you can
spell everything out in small words, but for the broader application -
something like Alldata, Chiltons, Haynes books &c - you want to be
minimalist enough that you're not insulting the intelligence of the
professional mechanic, while at the same time including enough
information that you're not talking over the heads of the poor weekend

Now, most professional mechanics don't masking-tape bolts to things, they
just know which bolts go where. Even if it's an application they've never
seen before, it's their _job_ to remember stuff like this, so most of them
are pretty good about this sort of thing. So how do you write for an
audience that includes both these guys AND the idiot with some wrenches,
without insulting some and confusing others?

Easy. Only takes one page. First, you take a big-ol' explosion diagram of
the thing - that alone is usually enough for the experienced mechanic.
Then, below that, you identify each chunk of the explosion with a number
keyed to the major assembly, and a description of exactly what goes with
that piece:
- Remove left access panel (1) by loosening the three #8x1/2" sheetmetal
screws at the bottom.
- Next, loosen the cover on baseplate (2) by removing the 3/8" wingnut
from the right-hand side and prying the press-fitting upwards from left.
- remove right access panel (3)...

So when you're done, you have a pile of parts, but you also have an
explosion diagram and a list of instructions that tell you how you got
there- which point "installation is the reverse of removal", har har.
Just kidding.

I love Hackos bit on "Analyzing the audiences for the publications". And I
really, ~really~ wish more tech writers did too.

1988 Olds Delta 88, 3800vinC FWD, and the tie rod ends are welded to the rack.
(don't ask) Now how do you change the back trans mount? Write me a procedure.

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