Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 10 Nov 1993 to 11 Nov 1993

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest - 10 Nov 1993 to 11 Nov 1993
From: Stephen Bernhardt <sbernhar -at- NMSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1993 09:55:42 -0700

And a tip of the hat to Tommy Barker:

A reply to Steve Bernhardt about personable tech writing:

> I have given this a thought, and I whole-heartedly agree with
> you. It seems to me that we have a continum of personableness in
> documentation that ranges from the very close and personal in
> most tutorial level stuff, and a much more impersonal element in
> reference, with guidance/procedures somewhere in between. Yes,
> even in highly-patterned reference sections, the categories of
> information should relate to real human needs for information,
> questions like "what do I do with it," or "how should I declare
> it."

> What do you think?

I think you've said it well, Tommy, especially since you agree with me.
We get distracted by surface elements--particular words, contractions,
expressions. Far better to pay attention to the deep structure of
documentation, to the relations it establishes between the writer, the
reader and the technology. We'd do better to think about how people learn
and what people need to do. The personableness of the documentation will
follow, and it will be based on deep understanding of the user's
positionality. It will convey respect for the user's knowledge,
background, awareness, attention, needs, motivations, and willingness to
engage with the technology via the documentation.


> Stephen A. Bernhardt >
> Department of English, Box 3E >
> New Mexico State University >
> Las Cruces, NM 88003 >
> 505-646-2027 FAX 505-646-7725 >
> e-mail sbernhar -at- nmsu -dot- edu >

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