TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Sanity check From:Chris Hamilton <chamilton -at- GR -dot- COM> Date:Mon, 26 Aug 1996 13:25:12 -0500
David Hailey wrote:
> It seems to me that the primary purpose of the help file is
> to instruct, and/or inform (without splitting hairs over
> whether these are synonyms).
> BUT (excuse me for shouting) it seems to me that important
> secondary purposes include things such comforting,
> encouraging; convincing the user that the software
> developer, the software, and the user are all members on a
> highly successful team.
I think it depends on your audience. The audience I'm writing for right
now is experienced PowerBuilder users. They don't need their hands
held, would probably be insulted by it, and don't have time to deal with
the hand-holding. I just try my best to make the text as tight as
possible so they can easily follow my directions and be done with it.
When I read your posting, I thought of my training experience, in which
I did a lot of what you described. After all, my students were, in a
lot of cases, entering a classroom for the first time in years and
afraid of computers. But that was only at that point in time. Later,
they got good at whatever I was teaching. An experienced user is slowed
down by hand-holding.
Help files are not ephemeral. Because they last as long as the
application does, they shouldn't be created for absolute beginners.
They should be as useful for beginners as for experienced users who need
help in a specific area. IMO, if hand-holding should be done, it should
be in tools aimed specifically at new users, such as tutorials.
Chris Hamilton, Technical Writer
Greenbrier and Russel
chamilton -at- gr -dot- com
From way downtown, !
TECHWR-L List Information
To send a message about technical communication to 2500+ list readers,
E-mail to TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU -dot- Send administrative commands
ALL other questions or problems concerning the list
should go to the listowner, Eric Ray, at ejray -at- ionet -dot- net -dot-