Re: Is this too Offensive for a manual?

Subject: Re: Is this too Offensive for a manual?
From: kcronin -at- daleen -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 19 Nov 2003 19:58:43 -0700

Claire wrote:

> I am editing a software manual with a target audience of users who are =
> responsible for managing meter readers.
> There are some phrases used in reference to the meter readers that make =
> me balk at including them. For example:
> Arising from incompetent, lazy or crooked meter readers...
> ...reward performance and punish incompetence.

This is a manual for reporting software, right? I've never seen reports
single out people. Rather, they single out statistics, trends, problems,
etc. So what trends would these icky nasty lazy meter readers produce?

? Incompetent meter readers would produce ERRORS. So some verbiage
regarding USER ERROR might be appropriate.
? Lazy meter readers' efforts could produce ERRORS and loss in
? Crooked meter readers' efforts would show up as FRAUD.

All of these are metrics that can be defined and quantified, with no
insult to anybody. Google on fraud prevention, revenue assurance, etc. and
you'll find all the euphemistic buzzwords you need to depersonalize this.

Think about other software manuals. It's not unlikely that other kinds of
software you document might be used by lazy, incompetent, or crooked
users. After all, laziness, incompetence, and loose morals are not unique
to meter readers (David N should take note of that fact - I know some tech
writers whom those qualities describe).

But no software manual I've seen makes reference to these human qualities,
despite how tempting it might be. (Just think how fun it would be to tell
our readers what we REALLY thought about our stupid, lazy, incompetent
users!) In short, the burden of diplomacy falls on the tech writer when
dealing with such human frailties. You KNOW your user may be incompetent.
That's why you document procedures so carefully.

Just approach this as what it is: an instruction manual for SOFTWARE. It's
NOT an HR manual for handling PEOPLE. Keep that in mind, and you'll do

Keith Cronin
Some of my best friends are meter readers.
Okay, that's not true.
But some of my best friends ARE lazy...



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