(Fwd) Re: Literature References on Why Manuals Do Not Work

Subject: (Fwd) Re: Literature References on Why Manuals Do Not Work
From: Bill McCrary <BILLM -at- NENE2 -dot- CMS-STL -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 1995 14:18:55 CST6CDT

Forwarded message:
From: Self <NENE/BILLM>
To: oswal -at- KNUTH -dot- MTSU -dot- EDU
Subject: Re: Literature References on Why Manuals Do Not Work
Date: Mon, 24 Apr 1995 10:41:38

Warning: Flame ahead. Proceed with caution.

For weeks I have been quietly reading this list's postings without
comment or question. However, your recent message has motivated me to
speak out.

You said:

> I am writing an article for a scientific journal (actually a guest
> editorial) dealing with the question, "Why don't most of user manual do
> not work?" The reasons are numerous--the engineers do not test{their own
> writing, do not test their products, the technical writers do not study
> the product adequately, etc.. Could you give me complete references on
> the articles you might have come across (complete references or copies of
> the articles will be highly appreciated)?

> I will also welcome references on two of your favorite articles on how to
> improve the quality of user manuals.

> Dr. Sushil Oswal
> Campus Box 70 MTSU
> Murfreesboro, TN 37132


I have several problems with your request.

First, the way your question was phrased implies an assumption that
most user manuals are ineffective. I don't share that opinion. I
would like to know what research you can reference to support your
claim.

Second, was your commentary requested by the "scientific journal" or
are you volunteering it? As both a full-time technical writer and
part-time newspaper reporter/writer, I am personally concerned that
any reputable journal would openly solicit and print such an obviously
biased discussion (granted, I am assuming that the scientific journal is
credible).

Third, what are your qualifications for writing the proposed article?
You list your title as Dr., but of what?

Fourth, although these list responses are informal (I for one do not spend any
extra time proofing my mail before it goes out) the double negative
and poor wording in your main question -"Why don't most of user manual
do not work?"- leads me to question your knowledge of basic grammar and
writing rules. In short, you do not seem qualified to write an article
examining the reasons for poorly written documentation.

Am I the only person asking these questions or am I being nitpicky
and harsh?


If I sound harsh, please excuse me. Few things irritate me more than
so-called "experts" commenting on subjects of which they know
nothing. If this is not your case (perhaps you were just having an
extremely bad day), please disregard my grumblings. If you did not
recognize these problems, then perhaps you should consider assigning the
job to someone else.





Just my .02
*** William Spencer McCrary *** billm -at- cms-stl -dot- com
"I speak for myself and not my company."
--------------------------------------------------------
"Choose to chance the rapids and dare to dance the tide..." -Garth Brooks


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