Re: Structured Documentation and Us

Subject: Re: Structured Documentation and Us
From: Peter Montgomery <MONTGOMERY -at- CAMINS -dot- CAMOSUN -dot- BC -dot- CA>
Date: Thu, 27 May 1993 19:37:44 -0700

> Date: Wed, 26 May 1993 14:48:32 -0700 (PDT) Thus spake Fred M Jacobson
<fred -at- BOOLE -dot- COM>

FM>All writing in our usual experience has structure: words, sentences,
FM>paragraphs, salutations, and the like. The purpose and meaning of the
FM>structure in everyday writing is governed by convention that most
FM>literate people understand. Technical communication often has more
FM>elaborate structure. It is conventional now for technical documents
FM>to begin with a section called "How to Use This Book" to explain the
FM>structure. Many of us must produce documentation that conforms to a
FM>standard structure defined by others.

I recently attended the 9th Annual Conference on Computers and Writing
in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A good part of it was aimed at helping profs
to promote clear, effective language through use of the interactive
potential of networks. An equally significant element was a concern,
especially among the more academically oriented, for hypertext. Hypertext
very much tends to cut across standard ideas of structured writing in
order to promote all kinds of syntheses of appropriate interconnections.
Rather than seeing the product as a tree or ladder (my images), the
reader is more likely to see a maze full of exciting possibilities
available for the reader's own construction. In fact, there was some
pretty high falutin' academic theory starting to float around as to
what hypertext is all about.

I am aware that current on-line help, as a form of tech. writing,
does take advantage of some of the capabilities of hypertext. I am,
however, wondering what effect hypertext might have on concepts of
structure in technical writing.

* Peter Montgomery Montgomery -at- camosun -dot- bc -dot- ca *
* Exitus effigium effigies exituum *

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