More personable tech writing

Subject: More personable tech writing
From: Susan Gallagher <Susan_Gallagher_at_Enfin-SD -at- RELAY -dot- PROTEON -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1993 12:13:00 EST

Reply-To: Steven Owens <uso01 -at- MAILHOST -dot- UNIDATA -dot- COM>

>Perhaps we can start another thread here; what do you (list members)
>think of the idea of making a book more "personable", to more
>effectively engage the reader's imagination?

>Standard practice seems to be for the writer to be invisible,
>ego-less. For a reference work, perhaps, but what about tutorials,
>introductory pieces, etc?

>What about using expressions and turns of phrase that are not generic,
>but rather specific to the writer's, ahem, prose?

One thing that I try to do (and I occasionally get dinged by my editor
for it) is maintain a conversational tone, especially in tutorial and
"user manual" type pieces. I'm not sure that it's _my_ personality
that I'm letting shine through; rather, I try to sound like a peer to
my user. This includes using _their_ jargon (common usage terms),
using contractions, and any other devices appropriate to the piece that
make the end user feel comfortable with _me-the-book_.

In pieces aimed toward a poor-dumb-user (pdu) audience, this includes
spicing up examples with a fair amount of humor. I keep a list of
names like Phil O'Dendron and Les Danse -- perfect for populating
databases with -- and show merge letter examples from park ranger
Captain S. Tate Parks.

In pieces aimed toward the application developer, executive, or other
"professional" level user, I maintain a more business like and "crisp"
style -- a kind-of "let's get down to business" approach.

IMHO, you can engage your readers and stimulate their imagination more
effectively by spotlighting their (collective) egos -- not by remaining
ego-less, and not by foisting your own ego upon your readers.

Works for me! (And by the way... Is everyone suitably impressed by my
PCCP (politically correct contrived plural) prose???) ;^)

Sue Gallagher |
Sr. Technical Writer | "Updating a manual
Easel Corporation | is like changing tires
Enfin Technology Lab | on a moving car."
San Diego, CA | -- Edmond Weiss
Susan_Gallagher_at_Enfin-SD -at- relay -dot- proteon -dot- com |

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