Re: Technical writing in a higher ed environment

Subject: Re: Technical writing in a higher ed environment
From: k k <turnleftatnowhere -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 18 Mar 2004 08:27:39 -0800 (PST)

"But AP doesn't even come close to meeting my needs.
In fact, it often contradicts Chicago and other style
guides commonly used in technical documents."

> What's a writer to do?

Are you certain that using the AP guide is not good
for the intended audience? If the audience is more
accustomed to white papers and Wall Street Journal
articles and things like that than to hardware design
guides, the AP style guide may actually produce
documents closer to what they expect and need.

Assuming that the users are people whose documentation
needs are not being met by docs made according to the
AP style:

If you haven't done it already, speak the quoted lines
above to the man who laid down the "law." Try to
explain to him why the AP guide doesn't work in your
situation. Be sure to emphasize that the AP guide
doesn't serve the needs of the users, rather than
saying things about how it affects your work. He will
probably care more about the former than the latter.

If you have already tried this and met no success, go
ahead and follow his law while you rearm for round 2.
Poll the users or somehow try to get feedback from
them whether the documentation is good enough from
their perspective. Collect information from tech doc
readability and usability studies. If you can, build a
business case and have figures that show how following
the AP guide in your production process is less
efficient. If you can, make darn sure you show it
costs more - maybe point out the cost of the time lost
because of having to use a different style guide
(having to in effect retrain yourself, extra editing
time, etc.). When you have that ammunition all loaded
up, go back and make another attempt to convince him
to change the rule.

If that second attempt fails, you can either salute
and say "Yes sir" and do it his way no matter how much
you dislike it, or you can start looking for another
job. The way I see it, at that point there really
wouldn't be any other honorable courses of action.

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Technical writing in a higher ed environment: From: Wendy Cunningham

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