RE: Procedures - Must we use numbered steps?

Subject: RE: Procedures - Must we use numbered steps?
From: "Wroblewski, Victoria" <victoria_wroblewski -at- usr -dot- com>
To: "Steven Brown" <stevenabrown -at- yahoo -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 18 Apr 2006 09:33:37 -0500

-----Original Message-----
From: Steven Brown
Sent: Tuesday, April 18, 2006 8:39 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Procedures - Must we use numbered steps?

<<Gordon Meyer's Usable Help blog
( recently discussed what
techncial writers might learn from recipe writers. While he doesn't
raise the issue of numbered steps, it struck me that recipes rarely use
numbered steps at all, yet somehow cookbook readers are able to follow a
fairly complex sequence of tasks.>>

Yes, they follow a complex sequence of tasks, but there is a reason to
the order of the tasks, and people are more familiar with them.

When baking, for example, you mix your dry ingredients in one bowl, your
wet in another, and then add the dry to the wet. You never (and a
recipe would NEVER tell you to) mix your sugar with your flour and add
that to the eggs, or add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredient bowl.

Cookbooks also assume a lot of applied knowledge - that you know what
certain terms mean - you can say "cream the butter and sugar" and the
reader will know what it means, or call up Mom to ask, not the
publisher. If you tell a user to "change their password" without
specific instructions, if they are confused then, they'll call your tech
support and not a family member.

Older cookbooks do tend to lump all the instructions in to a paragraph,
but modern books and cooking publications seem to be, dare I say,
info-mapping a lot. The chopping step, the sautee step, the deglazing
step... rather then a number for each action, they put like-things

But still... as soon as you assume you're the know-all of cooking and
don't read the instructions, there will be something hidden in the
procedure that will mess you up!

- Victoria

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