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I have been lurking (and very occasionally posting) on this list for some
time now. I have never posted a question before this, but I would appreciate
whatever help any of you might be able to give me on a problem I have now.
I am a grad student in the Scientific and Technical Communications program
at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. I am also working as a tech
writing intern at a local factory, where a fellow intern and I have been
given the responsibility of developing a set of training manuals and
curricular materials for a "Pay-for-Knowledge" system they plan to implement
in the near future.
We have been working pretty much on our own in this, as there is no
full-time tech writing or curriculum development staff. From the beginning,
we have been obliged to develop our own style guide and standards, according
to certain minimal requirements given to us by the plant manager.
One of his requirements was that every other page, at least, have a revision
date and a supersession date on it. The idea is that when manuals are
updated or revised, the current date should replace the revision date and
the revision date should move into the supersession date spot. Fairly SOP, yes?
We have been developing our manuals in Word 7.0 at their request. We have
also been using a modular approach to development according to Edmond
Weiss's book, "How to Write Usable User Documentation." What that means in
our case is that each module is a separate two-page file, and modules are
then assembled to make the manuals.
This is a very progressive company, and they have already needed revisions
to some materials we have developed. They have also asked for additions to
some manuals because of changes in the manufacturing process.
Here's the question we are wrestling with:
When revising or adding pages, should we--
1. place the date of the changes/additions *only* on the pages we are
revising or adding (and not on other existing pages), with the current
revision date as the supersession date?
2. place a date consistent with the current manual revision date in the
revision date block (even though the changes are being made after that date)?
3. change the revision and supersession dates in the entire manual
(which would be a huge hassle, given the frequency with which this company
wants changes made/added)?
And, BTW, just how much change is required to a manual before it is
considered a "new revision?"
We are debating what is going to be the best and most useful system for the
company to use when we leave, since the work of updating and revising these
materials apparently will fall upon someone within the company (though there
*has* been some loose talk about making this a full-time position for a
professional tech writer).
Option #1 would seem to be the easiest, but then, after awhile, they would
have any number of revision dates floating around in the manual, depending
on how many pages have been revised or added. Is that acceptable (to have
more than one revision date in a manual, that would reflect the changes to
each individual part of the manual as they are made)?
Option #2 would be the next easiest, but doesn't seem to me to be quite
honest, therefore less ethical.
Option #3, as I said, would be a huge hassle, and doesn't seem a very
cost-effective ROI to me.
My fellow intern and I are in a genuine quandary over this. We really don't
know which would be the best way to go, or whether there might even be
another alternative. Any ideas you'd care to share?
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