Subject: Technical COMMUNICATION
From: sanders_j -at- TBOSCH -dot- DNET -dot- GE -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 29 Jul 1993 10:09:38 EDT

Hi All,

I think what everyone has been talking about is something someone realized
several years ago, when they changed "writing" to "communication". It wasn't
just to accomadate the illutrators.

It's because what we do is COMMUNICATION. (Sorry, I shouldn't shout.) That
covers all sorts of areas, and really has more to do with how to convey
information than the actual content of the information. Does it matter that
your manual is about an Accounting Package or a game? In general, no.

Now, before I get poked with sharp sticks for sophistry, I will amend that
broad, sweeping, semi-inaccurate generalization to say that MANY of the same
techniques apply to documenting accounting software and games, not ALL.

As an example of what I mean, look at the manual for a new game out called
"Syndicate". I haven't gone through the whole thing or rigorously tested it
yet, but it looks like one of the best examples of technical communication
I've seen in a long time. And if you don't think games are a technical subject,
you haven't seen the right games. (They are software. Some of them, anyway.
I could also go on about the manuals for board games I've seen.)

The Syndicate manual has easily discernable chapters, divided by subject
matter and layed out for the read in the TOC. It has a very good "Quick Start"
section at the beginning; it's a walk-through tutorial. It has several
appendices on semi-related matter, and it uses screen-shots, call-outs and
detailed and interesting explanantions. I was impressed.

Now, how does this differ from the accounting software manual? Only in the
subject matter and chapter structure. Both books are going to have screen
shots with explanations, term definitions, and a well-structured table of

And are these techniques applicable non-software areas? Of course. There
may be sections that are different, and definitely some layout differences,
but the same skills apply, especially when building an index or deciding on
the structure of the TOC.

Because that's the business/career/discipline we're all in: communication.
Whether it's a three-ring manual, a hyper-on-line help facility, a multimedia
kiosk at an airport, or the label on a bottle of aspirin, it's all


-John Sanders-

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