Re[2]: Defining Readability Levels

Subject: Re[2]: Defining Readability Levels
From: Matt Craver <MCraver -at- OPENSOLUTIONS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Apr 1998 14:44:26 -0500

Keith Arnett [keith_arnett -at- RESTON -dot- OMD -dot- STERLING -dot- COM] Wrote:
>In the computer business, this is becoming
>increasingly difficult as marketers, analysts and trade publications
>seem to be vying to outdo one another by coining and utilizing the most
>horrible terminology--"mainframe-centric," "heterogenous environment,"
>and the like.
My personal big dislike is product names created by combining just
about any word with "net", "comm" "soft" or "ware" and then, in
defiance of all rules of forming compound nouns, capitalizing the second
"word" "TechNet", "ProComm", "InstallShield", etc. I suppose the
ultimate product name would be "NetCommSoftWare". (I should probably
trademark that right now :-) ).

>That is, can we apply a higher readablity level to a manual on a
>complex piece of medical equipment because we know the primary user
>will be a licensed medical doctor with an advanced degree?

Definitely not! Although obtaining a medical degree requires advanced
reading skills to understand the textbooks and journal articles, these
are so specifically jargon-laden that a doctor's standard vocabulary (by
which I mean the words they are most used to reading, writing and
thinking in) almost precludes reading something like a UNIX manual. We
are again drifting towards a discussion of specific vocabularies for
specific audiences. If I were writing documentation aimed at doctors, I
would use the same readability level as for users with high-school
education, because I can't expect them to know the technical terms I
would use for an advanced user. Not only that, but the sentence and
grammatical structures they are used to seeing on a daily basis are
different, again because the documents of their profession, medical
journals, are written differently.

I realize that I'm probably going to get in trouble for that last
paragraph. My comments are based on the experience of asking my spouse,
who is "a licensed medical doctor with an advanced degree", to
proof-read the documents that I produce for our banking software
-Matthew Craver,
Technical Documentation
Open Solutions Inc.
Mcraver -at- opensolutions -dot- com

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