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-> Is there a problem with tech writers knowing good type and layout rules? In
Heck no. It's people who have the equivalent of a kindergarten
understanding of type design who then assume they know everything anyone
would ever need to know about the subject, and make strident noises
about "never using sans-serif type" and "don't use justified margins". I
have seen the ugliest work of all come from people who applied these two
"rules" without understanding what they mean -- or even realizing there
is anything to understand for that matter.
The two rules I cite are generalities at best. The real rule on
what typeface and margin style to use is "it depends what you're trying
to do". Newspapers are not the same as magazines, which are not the same
as manuals, which are not the same as business letters, which are not
the same as email messages, which are not the same as marketing
-> today's workplace, we have to do everything that was formerly done by
-> separate professionals. That's regrettable, and it's led to masses of
-> unreadable offal, but it's nonetheless a fact of our lives. I don't think
-> it's unreasonable to expect a tech writer to be a writer first, foremost and
-> specially, and then expect a writer to know the basics of goodlayout.
The real tragedy is that there is LOTS of information out there, not dry
academic studies by people grasping for tenure, but actual "how to"
guides for people who want to improve the appearance of their
self-published documents. "Looking good in print" is one of the best
books I've seen on the subject.
-> We ease the transition here by having standard templates, or special
-> templates that we individually develop, and having writers use them during
-> the layout process.
That's a good idea. The templates that come with Word, for instance, are
great in a basic sort of way -- but they *are* usable even by someone
with no design experience. The hard part is getting people to use them,
or even notice that they exist.
-> However, I see absolutely nothing wrong with acquiring
-> at least some of the fundamental guidelines. And there are such guidelines,
-> hammered out over a long period of time. Proportions, white space, and type
-> characteristics, among other things, are evident in art, graphic design,
-> CAD, and architecture, as well as in page layout.
True enough, but one must beware of overconfidence resulting from the
acquisition of a little dangerous knowledge. I might read "Car and
Driver" or the "Auto" column in my weekend paper, but that doesn't mean
I'll go down to Pit Row and start telling the crews that they really
should be using this instead of that motor oil.
We as techwriters might *get* a little more respect if we *gave* a
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