RE: The 'user' in User Manual

Subject: RE: The 'user' in User Manual
From: "Lauren" <lt34 -at- csus -dot- edu>
To: "'Ned Bedinger'" <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2007 11:58:38 -0800

Ah. I see. Well with respect to writing, I will comment. Consistency for
the sake of consistency can lead to confusion because form will override
function. Consistency in habit will tend to lead to consistent documents
because the writer can focus on function since form is the habit. So back
to my original claim of consistency that I tend to use in the real world,
whatever you decide about form, be consistent. To add to that, regular
consistency over time will become habit.


-----Original Message-----
From: Ned Bedinger [mailto:doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com]
Sent: Friday, February 02, 2007 11:56 PM
To: Lauren
Cc: 'Techwr-l'
Subject: Re: The 'user' in User Manual

Lauren wrote:
> I've never heard the phrase "the old saw about foolish consistency."
> When did consistency become foolish? I might not understand what you
> are are saying here.

"A foolish consistency is the hobgobblin of little minds."

The writer of your Tester's Manual (that was it wasn't it?) took the rule of
consistency, applied it to the techwriting convention of addressing the
audience as 'you', and produced a document that reputedly has the word 'you'
in every sentence. I think this is a foolish consistency.

The quote is from "Self-Reliance", an essay from 1841, by Ralph Waldo
Emerson. True lions of technical writing will want to read it. True tech
writers will find much to quibble with in it. Anyway, here's the last
paragraph, where 'foolish consistency' and at least one other oft-quoted
line come from.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little
statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has
simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the
wall. Speak what you think now in hard words and to-morrow speak what
to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you
said to-day.--"Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood."--Is it so bad
then to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and
Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure
and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. .
. .

Trancendentally yours,



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