RE: Examples of Minimalist Writing

Subject: RE: Examples of Minimalist Writing
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
To: "Mike Starr" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 1 Oct 2009 09:32:59 -0700

Similar to Kevin, Mike isn't arguing against Minimalism--as it is
defined by Carroll. A Minimalist approach doesn't preclude reference
documentation. It precludes giving step-by-step directions covering how
to do things that users already know how to do or can easily figure out.
In the example Mike provides (How to increase color depth....), #1 is
important as it tells the user where to find the wanted functionality.
However, a table detailing all of the options could follow #1. And if
the original image would be irreversibly changed by the process, this
information would also be included. On the other hand, if the original
is not irreversibly changed, Minimalist instructions would include
information on how to undo changes that may have been made by mistake.
If you would omit anything, it would probably be #2. What user that
understands color depth and the "256 Color Palette" would need to be
told to click "OK"?

Having said all that, I have to add that I haven't read Carroll's book
ten years and might have forgotten something or transmogrified his
theory into my own pet creation. If anyone who has actually read
Carroll's work cares to show me the errors in my understanding of
Minimalism, I'd be grateful.


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of Mike Starr
Sent: Thursday, October 01, 2009 4:33 AM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: Examples of Minimalist Writing

I started responding to the list with an email but it turned into an

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 -

Leonard C. Porrello wrote:
> I would agree with Kevin, but what he's arguing against isn't
> Minimalism, and the joke Chris made is a play on the idea of
> "minimalism," not a reflection of Minimalistic technical writing. What
> Kevin is arguing against is simply poor writing.
> Minimalism is primarily concerned with creating knowledgeable,
> self-directed users (as opposed to automatons who blindly execute
> written procedures)--as efficiently as possible. For software, this
> isn't done by documenting every procedure, workflow, or bit of
> functionality. It's done by creating documentation that leads the user
> through tasks that enable him to understand the application. This
> invariably requires documentation that details common mistakes and
> recovery. Obviously, a purely Minimalistic approach doesn't work when
> you must document "EVERY bobble and wingding." Nevertheless,
> can inform how you organize your documentation, and its insistence on
> documenting common errors and error recovery is always applicable.
> Minimalism is concerned with brevity and "plain language writing" only
> to the same extent as is all good technical writing.
> Leonard

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Re: Examples of Minimalist Writing: From: Mike Starr

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