Re: Who is my audience?

Subject: Re: Who is my audience?
From: "Bergen, Jane" <janeb -at- ANSWERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 1997 09:00:25 -0600

On Wednesday, October 29, 1997 8:25 AM, Eric J. Ray (on behalf on
"anonymous") wrote:

> >
> >I have three questions:
> >
> >1. At the moment, there are 9 manuals, and many, many e-mail updates
> >them. There is no on-line help, or web-based help. I have the choice
> >either re-doing the paper documentation, creating application help
> >(accessible from the Help drop menu inside a module), or creating web
> >help (in a secure web site). Which type of documentation would you
> >consider to be a priority?
> >
> >2. My 4000 users are a very diverse group of people. They include
> >programmers, tech staff, registrarial staff, faculty, secretaries,
> >upper level management.

(more snipped)

> >I'm only allowed to create one set of documentation. The last set was

(more snipped)

You have omitted one important piece of information....what are you
writing about (subject matter)? It could make a difference. Let's
assume, though, that you're writing about something EVERYONE is using,
though I can't imagine what that would be if it's software. You can only
create one "set" (the operative word) of documentation, which would
include the subject matter of the nine manuals. You could create
"levels" of instruction within the set. For example,

* a simple tutorial for the less-technical audience. This document would
be simple, task-oriented, and basically a hand-holding to get your users
into the subject matter. I would use a good dose of graphics and plain
English text.

* a technical reference for the more technical audience. You could make
this in alphabetical order, category order, or whatever bests suits your
subject matter. I write software manuals, so I tend to think in those
terms. If you are writing disaster drills or policy and procedural
manuals, this would have to be considered.

* a quick reference guide to help everyone (all levels) find information
easily. You could reference sections in both the tutorial and the
technical reference manuals. This allows the readers to choose how much
more and the type of information they want to pursue.

You'll want a really good index and thorough overview sections. You
might find you can cut down on the total number of pages by adopting
this strategy.

Again, it's hard to make specific recommendations without knowing WHAT
you are writing (software manuals, hardware manuals, human resource
manuals, etc.). Hope this helps or at least triggers inspiration.

Jane Bergen
Jane Bergen, Technical Writer,
AnswerSoft, Inc. Richardson, TX
(972) 997-8355
janeb -at- answersoft -dot- com

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