Re: Grade-level writing - tool suggestions? (Summary)

Subject: Re: Grade-level writing - tool suggestions? (Summary)
From: "Hughes, Linda" <Linda -dot- Hughes -at- respironics -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 20 Feb 2004 09:23:09 -0500

Good morning list:

First, my apologies for continuing several good discussions about this matter off-list and forgetting to Cc Techwr-L. Unfortunately, none of the suggestions has solved my immediate problem, but thanks go to several people for giving it a try: Geoff Hart (we'll have to agree to disagree on the usefulness of Flesch-Kincaid, eh? ;->), Dick Margulis, Dave Neeley, Kat Nagel, et al.

As I mentioned to Dick Margulis, this manual is for home-use medical equipment, hence the 7th grade reading level and the highly regulated nature of the requirement. If anyone is not familiar with FDA req's, it's not unlike ISO: our product spec states that we will provide X with this product. Then we do it, and back that up with the proper testing and documentation. That's easy enough, relatively speaking, it's breaking a college-level operation manual down so a layperson can understand it that's proving to be a challenge.

Based on trying various methods and suggestions from the list, I've reached a few conclusions. First, and most disappointing, there doesn't seem to be any easy way to do this! It's grunt writing, pure and simple. On the other hand, the re-write is such a challenge that I kind of hope some of this project comes my way. Second: we need to work with a clinical SME, emphasizing information in the manual that the homecare user must understand, removing information they won't need (calculation of fractional inspired oxygen comes to mind).

Next: pictures. Absolutely. There is simply no way to remove the correct terminology from the manual. If it's called an inspiratory bacteria filter, the user must learn that term. Simple line art and exploded diagrams will make a big difference. A glossary is also a must.

A couple of people suggested using interns, recent high school grads, etc. to look over the manual and highlight everything they don't understand. Excellent suggestion--fast, cheap, low tech. We might even have a few "typical users" around the company that could do a first-pass review (typical, to my mind would include someone with no medical or computer training.) An outside editor would be great, but unlikely due to time constraints.

Back to work, me!


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