Re: "Making the Most of Service Manuals"

Subject: Re: "Making the Most of Service Manuals"
From: Ned Bedinger <doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com>
To: Dan Goldstein <DGoldstein -at- riverainmedical -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 09 Apr 2008 21:16:36 -0700

Dan Goldstein wrote:
> The article I just read isn't available for free online, so you'll have
> to take my word for it. It was published in the Association for the
> Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI) publication "Biomedical
> Instrumentation & Technology."
> Among the points raised in the article:
> * Apparently, some customers actually read the manuals!

This contrasts very nicely with the claim that no one reads the manuals.
Thanks, Dan, for posting about it. It interests me that the
professionals who use manuals are a different class of audience from
some of the users we write for.

I posted here a few years ago about what I learned from interviewing
medical professionals (sonographers) while writing a manual for medical
diagnostic ultrasound equipment.

To recap and add my 2 units of currency, they blew me away with their
requirements, which conflicted directly with many of my precepts about
technical writing.

Specifically, they WANTED telegraphic writing. They used manuals to
refresh their knowledge about specific procedures.

IOW, the manual prompts existing knowledge from long-term storage into
working memory. Sentences and paragraphs interfere with their communion
of mind's memory and manual's prompts.

My audience analysis guidelines now account better for the audience's

Where I once let their knowledge guide the content I needed to include,
it now guides content AND EVEN the number of words needed to couch
information. Definitely not paragraphs, probably not sentence. Best is

I did hear from others on the list who disagreed about ever using
telegraphic style. But I prefer to be a heretic if the alternative is to
forego such clear directives from audience.


Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com

> * The technicians and engineers who use medical devices create and share
> online lists of available service manuals, in order to have access to
> up-to-date documentation.
> * Expensive, advanced medical equipment is often sold with a single
> printed manual (and no electronic backup). Resold equipment often has no
> manual at all.
> * Some companies charge their customers separately for manuals, instead
> of including them for free with the medical device. (Personally, I think
> this is short-sighted.)
> * Some companies provide manuals online as public, unencrypted PDF
> files. Others provide manuals only to technicians who have attended
> training sessions.
> * The disadvantages of electronic (vs. print) publication seem to affect
> the company more than the user.
> Since there are some STC officers on the list... Having read the
> article, I highly recommend that STC offer to pay AAMI for the rights to
> reprint it in an STC publication.


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"Making the Most of Service Manuals": From: Dan Goldstein

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