(Fwd) Re: Using Humor Judiciously

Subject: (Fwd) Re: Using Humor Judiciously
From: Sue Heim <sue -at- RIS -dot- RISINC -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 08:35:03 PST

I checked with Greg, and he really wanted his reply to go to the
entire list, so... here it is!
...sue
-------------------------
Sue Heim
Research Information Systems
Carlsbad, California USA
Email: Sue -at- ris -dot- risinc -dot- com


------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 17:31:06 -0700
From: Greg Taggart <gtaggart -at- fiber -dot- net>
Organization: Taggart Company
To: Sue Heim <sue -at- RIS -dot- RISINC -dot- COM>
Subject: Re: Using Humor Judiciously

Sue Heim wrote:

> Eric wanted to know:
> > I'd be interested in hearing comments from anyone
> > about judicious use of humor in documentation
> > or books. <snip>
> > I know I'd rather have some humor in a book I
> > buy, but wouldn't want it in the "documentation"
> > for a product. What do the rest of you think?

> I absolutely hate humor in documentation for software and/or hardware
> products. Even tho I write manuals for a living, I still want to be
> able to pick up someone else's manual and find what I want without
> having to wade thru "funnies." I think humor has a place in the
> "dummies" books, as Eric stated, especially if it can make a
> hard-to-learn topic more fun. Otherwise... ugh! Of course, this is
> only my personal preference (I always feel as if I'm being "talked
> down to" when I read user docs with lots of humor or cartoons in
> 'em)...

> ...sue
> -------------------------
> Sue Heim
> Research Information Systems
> Carlsbad, California USA
> Email: Sue -at- ris -dot- risinc -dot- com

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I understand what you're saying and agree with it to a point.
However, it is also true that I've sometimes felt ignored by the
technical writer when I pick up a software manual to read. Instead
of "talk[ing] down to me," they talk past me, over my head, and around
me. (For those that don't know me -- and that would include all of you --
I'm relatively new to the computer world, but aging quickly and well, I
hope.)

I'm an attorney by education and have read some pretty incomprehensible
writing in my day (and have probably authored my share). I find way too
many software manuals impenetrable. Having said that, I want to stress
that I'm not sure I could do better. However, if software manuals are no
place for humor, they at least ought to be interesting and engaging. (A
good rule of thumb: The less technical writers write like a social
scientist, the better they are communicating.) There, have I offended
everybody?

I'm not ever sure this was worth two cents.

Greg Taggart

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