Re: User vs. Reference

Subject: Re: User vs. Reference
From: John McDermott <jjm -at- JKINTL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 1 Feb 1995 15:28:52 PST

I put this back on the list because I feel the distinction is important.

Look at the UNIX manuals. The idea is that a "Reference" manual provides the
user (of the manual) with quick, concise answers to questions (e.g. what is
the command to remove a file?). The user manuals *explain* topics, discuss
concepts, etc. The American Heritage Dictionary is a reference manual. A
college English text is a user manual. You cannot learn English from the
dictionary, but you should be able to learn it from a collection of English
texts (assuming enough basic knowledge...). Likewise, the UNIX reference
manuals are useless to one learning UNIX, but like the AHD, critical for
looking up things you forgot (like the arguments to 'mail').

As both a user and a technical writer, the distinction is very important to
me. I don't mind if some of you out there disagree, however...

>We're currently in the process of creating standards within my company.
>I'd like to hear the list members' opinions on what the differences
>are between user and reference manuals. Currently, each person has
>a different opinion on what information is contained in each and how
>the information is structured.

>Thanks in advance,

>Tammy Sudol tammy -at- m3isystems -dot- qc -dot- ca
>Technical Writer tel: 514-928-4600 ext. 2389
>Mosaic Department
>M3i Systems Inc.
>Longueuil, Quebec

Name: John McDermott
E-mail: jjm -at- jkintl -dot- com (John McDermott)
Voice: +1 505/377-6293 FAX: +1 505/377-6313

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