Formatting Chaos

Subject: Formatting Chaos
From: Alisa Dean <Alisa -dot- Dean -at- MCI -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 15:06:00 -0700

First question - has anyone communicated any of this to upper management?
If yes, and they agreed to this monstrosity without have periodic
reviews, then they made this bed. If no, then they may be blithely
unaware of the giant spud this guy is going to drop on them. Either
way, from what you've said, I believe they are going to be very unhappy
with the results. God forbid, but if they think it's great, then the
company will suffer once the customers start yelling about it (and
they will!).

It sounds like this guy is breaking every rule in the book regarding
good communications. He is ignoring the needs of the audience, ignoring
the needs of the product, and is very resistant to any input. HE has
decided what is best, and the rest of you ignorant boobs who don't
know any better (nope, I've never encountered his type before).

I have created a single, large document that incorporated multiple
"applications," where the applications were stand-alone subcomponents of
an overall system. Each section was a complete manual for the specific
application, with its own TOC and index. In addition, the main TOC and
index included references to all the information. Since the document
was in a 3-ring binder, if the user desired, a specific section could
be removed for use and still completely document the specific application.

However, with that much information in one place, it is mandatory that
complete indexing, cross-references, TOC(s), Tables of Figures, whatever,
be made. Otherwise, the user will not be able to find anything, and
will give up in disgust.

Regarding your writer's distillation of research into a single sentence,
it *could* happen. However, I would review everything to make sure
that important information wasn't dropped. From the sound of it, it
seems more likely that if he didn't understand it, he felt it wasn't
important enough to include.

Unfortunately, my impression is that it will probably be easier to
start over from scratch. Unless the information itself is valid, you
will probably have to re-research everything, in addition to rewriting.

I apologize for the following if it seems heartless, but I've been
put in similar circumstances. Since you are a contractor and not in
the charity business, if you are requested to fix/redo this document
(or set of documents), then do your best to give an honest estimate
of what it would take to do it and bill accordingly. I would not sacrifice
yourself to save the company from its mistakes and to save this guy's
butt. If you do, then neither one will learn from this. I know, since
I've done the saving, and had the same circumstance happen again and
again.

Good luck,

Alisa Dean
Sr. Technical Writer
alisa -dot- dean -at- mci -dot- com

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