RE: Technical writing in a higher ed environment

Subject: RE: Technical writing in a higher ed environment
From: "Lisa Wright" <liwright -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 19 Mar 2004 14:14:27 -0800

I'm going to have to disagree with you on this one (I know it's
Friday...sorry). You say that "Technical writers are trained to honor
consistency above all else." What I was taught to be most important is
clarity and effectiveness in the content. Consistent presentation of
information is VERY important, yes. It helps readers map unfamiliar terrain,
orient themselves, and perform other numerous cognitive tasks that make
learning easier. But consistency is in itself only an aid to clarity and
effective content.

Now, your example from the AP manual is certainly a good example of
inelegant rules, though they are internally consistent (always spell out a
number if it's this no matter what's going on around it). But I fail to see
how that sort of stylistic rule inhibits your ability to produce effective
content. Also, if we're looking at consistency, there is a valid argument to
be made for having consistent documentation across all internal

Maybe I'm just dense, or maybe the unbelievable spring weather here in
Colorado has given me spring fever. Anyway, just wanted to bring up that


-----Original Message-----
From: bounce-techwr-l-53104 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-53104 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com] On Behalf Of Wendy
Sent: Friday, March 19, 2004 11:07 AM
Subject: RE: Technical writing in a higher ed environment

So... I will do what I feel is necessary to present my technical information
with clarity and conciseness. When AP conflicts with this goal, I'll use
Chicago or other appropriate source as my guide. Ultimately, the person who
established AP as the sole style guide has never written technical
documentation and has never worked with a technical writer. I will keep a
record of AP 'deficiencies' (thanks
Bill) as CYA in case I'm ever confronted.

Here's one example of how AP falls short. At one time or another we have all
had to consider the "rules" for when to use figures and when to write out
numbers. AP style says: "Spell out whole numbers below 10, use figures for
10 and above." Seems simple enough. Until you need to use multiple numbers
(all of the same category or context) in one sentence. AP gives the
following example of appropriate use: "They had 10 dogs, six cats and 97
hamsters." Doesn't that make the you cringe?

Technical writers are trained to honor consistency above all else. Chicago
says not to use numerals for some and spell out others within a sentence or
even a series of paragraphs. For consistency's sake, it directs us to use
numerals for all in this situation.

Sorry to ramble.

Thanks again,


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

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