Re: Use of Optional in instructions

Subject: Re: Use of Optional in instructions
From: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2009 00:18:27 -0700

Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant) wrote:
> Richard Combs wrote:
>> RIGHT: "To accomplish X, do A."
>> WRONG: "Do A to accomplish X."
I would not write an instruction like this either, but it gets rid of
the non-committal sound of the "right" option. The instruction for
accomplishing X should already be in a section for accomplishing X, so
there should not be a need to soften the fact that an action will
accomplish X. So in the section for accomplishing X the instruction
should be, "Do A."
> Interesting. I've always preferred the other route, on the grounds that
> Richard's method buries the lede.
I agree with Madelyn here, although, I have never thought of technical
writing as having a lede, although I guess it is nice to think of
enticing readers while writing.
> Can you give me insight on why you do it your way, or, if you prefer,
> why my reasoning is wrong?
> Oh, and to return to the original question, how about:
> I like using a repeated, semi-visual cue, like adding [Optional] at the
> beginning of those steps, because it adds to scanability -- the user can
> quickly pick out the required and optional steps, without wasting much
> thought.
As a writer, I find parenthetical or bracketed terms, like "[Optional]"
to be a bit awkward, but as a reader, I find them very helpful. I like
scanning documents for necessary information and I think that signposts
such as this are helpful. When I want the important stuff, I do not
want to spend time reading optional pieces that I may not need. I
certainly do not read a section and then find out later that it is only



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Use of Optional in instructions: From: Bruce Megan (ST-CO/ENG2.2)
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Combs, Richard
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)

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