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 09:37:27 -0800 (PST)



--- Lisa Wright <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net> wrote:
>
> I disagree--I do not think this is good advice.
> Spending this much time and
> energy on something that is relatively trivial is
> going to raise red flags
> with the administration. College budgets are
> invariably tight and you do not
> want to be viewed as wasting time and money.
>

The question of how trivial or non-trivial the matter
is will have to be decided by the people on the ground
at the relevant point. We here have no way of knowing.
I assumed the original poster considered it
non-trivial, that he considered it a problem that he
needed to deal with in order to make things work
right, else why would he ask for advice?

You apparently did not notice that I began my response
with a question about whether the difference in style
guide was a problem for the users. I believe that in
any disagreement over ways in which things are done,
that is the overriding concern. If the AP guide
produces good results for the end users that is good
reason to keep using it. I mentioned explicitly that
my response was predicated on the idea that use of the
AP guide is known to produce documentation that does
not meet the user needs. If that is the case, then the
question of which style guide is followed may not be a
barn-burner but it is not trivial.

You also apparently did not see the part of my post
where I said to follow the rule about using the AP
guide while gathering information for another attempt
to change that rule. If that was not clear enough, I
will try to clarify it now: Obviously getting the work
done takes precedence. Work should not be stopped or
slowed for the sake of gathering evidence and
formulating arguments for a continuation of the debate
over style guides. If the writer still wants to get
the rule changed, he needs to gather something
convincing but that gathering must be of secondary
importance, a task he works at if and when time is
available.


>
> *especially* would not
> indicate that it is going to take extra time and
> money for you personally to
> adapt to using a different style guide. First of
> all, it shouldn't take
> noticeable time and money unless you have to
> retrofit documents. Second, do
> not make this about you. If you are a professional
> writer, you should be
> able to adapt fairly easily to a slightly different
> style. So what if AP and
> Chicago disagree? They're both used in tech docs and
> all sorts of other
> areas.
>

The idea was to build a business case. A comparison of
relative costs is a perfectly valid part of a business
case.

As far as I know, the person who laid down the law
about using the AP guide did not say to use it for
most things and then to use other guides for other
things. If it is possible to do this, and produce good
documentation thereby, great. But the question of
whether to use the AP guide *only* is a matter that
must be cleared up between the boss and the writer. It
may be the boss wants *nothing* but the AP guide used.
In that case, we're back to the question of whether
doing so causes the documentation to fall short of
meeeting the users' needs.


>
> Fight the strategic war and keep your job.
>

Exactly. You have to know when to quit. That's why I
said if the 2nd attempt to change the boss' mind
doesn't work, then you have to choose. Two tries would
be logical, three tries would be excessive.


>
> Finally, has anyone really done usability studies of
> one style guide vs.
> another? I sincerely hope not. It is definitely not
> something I'd quit my
> job for. In my book that's akin to quitting because
> the institutional style
> is Times instead of Palatino.
>

It's for the person on the spot to decide. I can't
imagine quitting over such an issue either, but I have
no way to tell how much that individual is bothered by
the situation and I have no information on any fallout
from this situation. It is possible the matter of
which guide to use is only the tip of the iceberg.


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RE: Technical writing in a higher ed environment: From: Lisa Wright

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