Task vs. Procedure query

Subject: Task vs. Procedure query
From: "Larry Kunz ((919) 254-6395)" <ldkunz -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 13:24:12 EST

Ron Stone writes:

> What are the relative advantages/disadvantages of

> 1) documentation focused on task and
> 2) documentation focused on procedure?
> ...

> And also, is there enough of a difference between the two to be significant to
> tech communicators?

One of the few absolutes of technical communication is: Write for the
audience. (I think I hear a song! :-)

If your audience is trying to do a task, focus your documentation on
the task. If they're interested in a procedure, focus your
documentation on the procedure. 99 percent of the time, the audience
is trying to do a task. (An exception might be when your audience is a
programmer writing an application that operates on a particular piece
of software.)

The ideal, at least in computing, is to design software that so closely
mirrors the tasks your audience wants to do that there's no distinction
between task-oriented and procedure-oriented documentation. By knowing
our audience and the tasks they want to do, we technical communicators
can play a major role in helping software designers attain that ideal.

That's a short answer to a profound question. I invite others to
jump in (as if y'all needed invitations :-).

Larry Kunz
ldkunz -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com

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