Re: Minimalist Writing

Subject: Re: Minimalist Writing
From: Len Olszewski <saslpo -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1993 09:18:35 -0500

Dave Venzke writes about minimalism:

> My understanding of minimalist writing may be rather limited,
> but of what I know, this approach seems ideally suited for tutorials,
> training materials, 'Quick Start' guides, and other forms of writing
> that attempt to get the reader to some minimal level of proficiency
> with a product or procedure in a relatively short span of time.

> Minimalist writing cannot be used everywhere. And, in fact, should be
> used in conjunction with other more traditional forms of documentation.

Here's my two bits - I chip in like this every time a discussion of
minimalism is underway.

One of the principles of minimalist documentation is that, to the
largest extent possible, the product should *document itself*, either
explicitly, or with good design that makes it intuitive to use. Another
key principle is that the documentation and the product design should
*fit together* to give the user the information required to operate the

Minimalism is not simply "writing less". There's the presumption of a
certain amount of design work and coordination. This is considerably
*harder* than just writing comprehensive reference, and implies the
expicit consideration of human factors and product usability through

Minimalist documentation works for physical products as well as, if not
better than, it works for software products. In judging STC
competitions, I've seen some wonderful examples of combinations of
pictures on a document and on the product combined with just enough
words to remove any confusion. Minimalism like this gives the user
credit for being smart enough to draw obvious conclusions, given the
"right" amount of visual, design and verbal information.

Mr. Venzke is right in that minimalist documents are not always
appropriate. However, in the right situations with the correct design
approach, coordination with product designers, and usability testing,
minimalism can be extremely effective.

But it's *hard* to get it right. And expensive. But hey, aren't your
customers worth it? (See, I'm practicing being marketing-oriented in my
postings before I do it in my manuals. How'd I do? 8-)

|Len Olszewski, Technical Writer |"That boy's about as sharp as a sack|
|saslpo -at- unx -dot- sas -dot- com|Cary, NC, USA|o' wet mice." - Foghorn Leghorn |
| Opinions this ludicrous are mine. Reasonable opinions will cost you.|

Previous by Author: Re: TQM, or Taking my own advice
Next by Author: Figures
Previous by Thread: Re: Minimalist Writing
Next by Thread: Re: Minimalist Writing

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads