Re: "Making the Most of Service Manuals"

Subject: Re: "Making the Most of Service Manuals"
From: Mike Starr <mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2008 01:49:20 -0500

That's all well and good if you know your audience is composed exclusively of who already know the equipment and only need the documentation to refresh their memory. However, if your audience includes new users, you're doing them a disservice by catering to the experienced users and omitting detail. In addition, leaving the detail out of the documentation imposes a training requirement on the experienced users. In most cases, it's the job of the documentation to relieve experienced users of that burden.

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Technical Illustrator
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
(262) 694-1028 - mike -at- writestarr -dot- com -

Ned Bedinger wrote:
> 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
> knowledge.
> 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
> phrases.
> 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

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"Making the Most of Service Manuals": From: Dan Goldstein
Re: "Making the Most of Service Manuals": From: Ned Bedinger

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