RE: Department of Redundancy Department

Subject: RE: Department of Redundancy Department
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Sam Beard" <sbeard -at- oico -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Jul 2008 10:57:57 -0600

Sam Beard wrote:

> I'm revising a manual from before my time here, making some fairly
> minor edits. However, I ALWAYS review the manuals I'm revising here,
> reading them word for word, and I usually, if not always, catch some
> sort of error that wasn't in the set of redlines handed to me. Take
> gem, for example:
> Plug the external desktop power supply cord of the voltage-specific
> external desk-top power supply supplied with the autosampler into the
> power connector located on the autosampler back panel.
> Now, this was step 1 of a four step process on plugging in an
> autosampler and connecting it to the main unit, in a section called
> Establishing External Connections. Right before this was a Warning and
> Caution about using the supplied power supply. While not technically
> error, isn't this a WONDERFUL example of technical writing?!

Jeez, I hate that kind of crap. Here's something I posted a little over
a year ago that's relevant:

Stuart Burnfield wrote:

> If you're pretending to be a clueless idiot, it's hard to avoid
> overwriting and overexplaining. You'll be tailoring the docs to make
> them more usable by a handful of users, at the expense of the
> overwhelming majority of users. (I'm assuming you haven't identified
> clueless idiots as a significant segment of your target audience :^)

Hear, hear. Mark Baker, who I believe was a regular contributer to this
list (or was it FrameUsers?) a while back, posited "Baker's Paradox,"
which I formatted nicely with a border and big letters, and posted
prominently in my cube as a reminder:

"Any procedure that anticipates every possible misunderstanding will be
incomprehensible to all users."


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Department of Redundancy Department: From: Sam Beard

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