Re: Crying wolf?

Subject: Re: Crying wolf?
From: TRACY BOYINGTON <trlyboyi -at- GENESIS -dot- ODVTE -dot- STATE -dot- OK -dot- US>
Date: Wed, 3 Jan 1996 08:32:29 +0000

Geoff Hart wrote:

> I still
> tend to think that you should call everything "note" ("the
> boy who didn't cry at all, but just cleared his throat")
> and let readers determine whether electrocution or the need
> to reboot the computer is the more serious. Again, not
> sarcasm... readers can do this easily enough, but the
> question then becomes whether providing additional help
> really benefits them. I know what the lawyers would say,
> but what about the techwhirlers?

It doesn't matter what the techwhirlers say, Geoff...the lawyers
will always win.

Here's my .02 anyway. We use "note" for "nice to know" stuff,
"important" for "will damage equipment," "caution" for "might cause
injury," "warning" for "will cause injury/might cause death," and
"danger" for "will cause death." I doubt many of our readers
understand the distinctions between caution/warning/danger, but I
think the difference between caution/warning/danger and
note/important *is* obvious (they are formatted differently).
If someone's going to get flooded with notes/warnings/etc. and
eventually ignore or miss some of them, I want the cautions/
warnings/dangers to *clearly* stand out so they won't be the
ones ignored.

However, I think some of this depends on your audience. Some of
our work is written for 6-8th grade students. We have a higher
responsibility to warn them (with big RED warnings) than one
might if the audience were chemical engineers or people with
advanced degrees in fire protection. As someone mentioned earlier,
you could offend these readers ("How stupid do you think I am?"). Of
course, there's also the "whatever you do, don't stick beans up your
nose" problem when warning 6-8th graders ("This will really cut your
hand off? Cool.")


Tracy Boyington
Technical Communication Specialist
Oklahoma Department of Vocational & Technical Education
Stillwater, Oklahoma

I never express opinions, but if one slips out, it belongs
to me and not ODVTE.

"I think I did pretty well, considering I started out
with nothing but a bunch of blank paper."
-- Steve Martin

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