Entertaining TW (was: Information Mapping)

Subject: Entertaining TW (was: Information Mapping)
From: "Matthew B. Hicks" <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 1996 09:59:53 -0600

*>From: Bill Hartzer XBJH
*>
*>Welcome to the world of Technical Writing, Tim! We're _NOT_ here
*>to entertain the reader. As Technical Writers, we're here to get
*>the information a reader needs to them in the shortest amount of
*>time while making it easy for them to understand. If our readers
*>need entertainment, they should read a John Grisham novel, _NOT_ a
*>User's Guide. Technical Writing is _NOT_ entertainment writing. It
*>never has been and never should be. If Technical Writing was entertaining
*>reading, 99 percent of Americans would know how to program their VCRs!

This last line makes me think that Bill's post was heavy on the sarcasm.
Either that, or he's completely missed his own point. Isn't getting those
VCRs programmed one of the objects of technical writing? Isn't this really a
condemnation of dry, boring, obtuse writing that cannot inform because it
will never be read? And if the fault does rest with our technical writing,
then I put it to you, Dean Wormer, isn't that an indictment of our entire
American way of life? (There's an example of the kind of humor best avoided
in technical writing. Before anyone asks, it's a paraphrase of Eric
Stratton's [Tim Matheson] tirade in the Greek Council hearing in the movie
Animal House.)

Anyway, I don't see how anyone could seriously say that technical writing
shouldn't be entertaining and then in the next sentence say that if it *was*
entertaining then it would achieve the goals set out for it. I think he was
pulling our legs -- either that or he's completely lost it.

+ - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
-Matt Hicks matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu
"This planet just stepped over the line, assemble the giant robot!"
-Dick Solomon, "3rd Rock from the Sun"

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