Re: Is the Customer Always Right?

Subject: Re: Is the Customer Always Right?
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 1995 11:03:11 -0800

I guess I hit reply too soon, now I don't know who originated
this message...

> 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?

> 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"?)

Part of the problem we face is that *everyone* speaks English and
everyoone can write (notice I didn't say *well* here). It follows,
then, that everyone knows how a tech manual should be put together...
And we've all faced those customers (whether they are company
management or software architects or contracting clients) that have
strong opinions about how things should be worded, how many screen
shots we should include, and what font we should use.

I usually listen very carefully without saying a word, then go
back to my office, grab several issues of Tech Comm, Journal of
Tech Writing... and toddle on over to the copy machine. At our
next meeting, I say "I know that you want me to do this your way.
These are my reasons for disagreeing with you." At this point, I
dump about 25 pages or real English-nerd stuff that supports my
position on their lap. :-)

Occasionally I have to do this more than once before garnering
complete acceptance for my doc plans.

Sue Gallagher
StarBase Corp, Irvine CA
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com

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