Number of warnings

Subject: Number of warnings
From: Ladonna Weeks <ladonnaweeks -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2009 10:36:11 -0800 (PST)

I'm not sure how much this applies to technical writing but it really applies to the effectiveness of warning signs. There is an 8-mile stretch of road that I travel daily. It is a two-lane country road with a speed limit of 55 MPH. There are about ten curves that have yellow warning signs to slow to 40 mph. All but two of the curves are well-banked and if you are a decent driver you hardly have to slow down at all to manage the curves. There are two, however, that are rather deadly and if you don't slow to at least 40, you'll end up in a ditch. I have seen bad accidents at both these curves and I have to wonder if people didn't take these warning signs seriously because the other ones turned out to be false alarms. Could something like this apply to technical writing?

I think about new products I buy and the first two pages are full of instructions not to do really stupid things with the toaster (such as operate it in a bathtub). I'm sure valid stuff may be buried among the ridiculous stuff but I'm too impatient to dig for it so I blow off the safety warnings and maybe the whole book, especially if it's for a type of product (such as a toaster), that I've used before. And maybe I'll miss something important or interesting. Just food for thought...


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