Are manuals and help read?

Subject: Are manuals and help read?
From: Karla McMaster <mcmaster%pcmail -dot- cti-pet -dot- com -at- CTI-PET -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Mar 1994 09:25:52 EST

Bonni Graham writes:

I don't mean to pick on Andreas, but I am so tired of hearing that
attitude. If you want to find out who reads the book, just try to
deliver software without it! "Thanks for your check -- here's the
disk" doesn't cut it for anyone but shareware authors -- and even
they include online help and a readme or other text file.

The only way to combat this problem is to create useful books and
online help and to insist that technical support send people to the
book if the answer to their question is there. We need to create
strong indexes (by observing our users -- indirectly through the tech
support folks, if necessary). We need to make sure we're writing to
the question, because most people don't want to read the book from
cover to cover. They want to find the information they're looking for
and go back to work!

I think Andreas hit a sore spot when he wrote about manuals not being read...I
know that's what prompted my response! I think that response rose out of
trying, for so long, to have my profession be taken seriously. I still feel
that quite a few people in industry look on manuals and help as things that
_have_ to be done because everyone else does them, not because they have any
intrinsic worth.

I, like Bonni, have heard over and over that no one reads the manual (or help),
anyway. If I really believed that, I would look for another type of employment.
Still, it gets discouraging to hear your profession denigrated every time you
turn around. I, for one, am really looking forward to hearing the results of
the STC-sponsored research on the added value of technical communicators. I'll
probably make copies of the papers and carry them around with me wherever I

I was surprised that all this fuss got kicked up around a discussion of titles,
but perhaps I shouldn't have been. I mean, women who practically ran their
boss' business were called secretaries until men started being interested in
those types of positions, and calling themselves administrative assistants.
Perhaps new titles can remove some of the sexism that I see inherent in the
technical communication industry...

Just thinking...Karla

Karla McMaster, still just plain old technical writer
CTI PET Systems, Knoxville, TN
mcmaster -at- cti-pet -dot- com

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