Is the Customer Always Right?

Subject: Is the Customer Always Right?
From: Geoffrey Marnell <gmarnell -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 23:20:38 +1100

When it comes to matters of design, style and language, is the
customer/client always right? Or is this an abandonment of the
professionalism that technical writers rightfully assume?

An analogy is this: if you go to a doctor complaining of abdominal pains
and say: "Doc, I reckon I've got appendicitis", the doctor doesn't say
"Well; you're the customer. The customer is always right. So let's open
you up and take out the obviously offending organ." The reason is simple:
a doctor is not in retail or trade (where it might make sense to say that
what the customer wants is what goes). The doctor is less accommodating
because medicine is a profession.

So, if technical writers consider themselves professionals, are they
entitled to say to clients: "No; page numbers can't be aligned along the
inside margins. Or, no, paragraphs must be indented. Or, no, we don't
instruct trainees to "originate a plan", we tell them to " devise a plan"
... and so on ... whatever you might wish?

[Suppose a client's specification, if followed, would result is a barely
readable text. Would you argue against the specification? Or follow the
client's specification, because "the client is always right"?)

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