Readability...some more observations

Subject: Readability...some more observations
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Sat, 4 Apr 1998 20:50:48 -0500

Here are some of the other criteria I consider:
(1) Need to know.
If people really need to know certain information, you can
do (or not do) things. I'm not advocating poor
writing; but in a world where "good enough" is sometimes the best you can
do, this is one criteria to consider. OTOH, if I want my reader to use
a document to get info that s/he may not consider valuable, the metaphor I
think of is seduction...using every trick I can think of to get the reader
to decide to read the info!
(2) Translate readers' comments. I listen for phrases like "too
long," "too wordy," "too boring." IME, people use these phrases because
they aren't editors and they don't have a way to say "you're using passive
voice too much here." But almost anytime I hear these comments, I find
no-no's in
the text: sentences are too long; text could be bullets; list structure
isn't parallel; information is hard to find (lack of visual cues, lack of
index or TOC, lack of page numbers,lack of heading levels); task and
knowledge info is
mixed together like meat and potatoes in a stew.
I think it's important to figure out what these comments really
mean. I'm currently working on a project where the client says they want
"no more
than 10 or 12 pages." I suspect what they really want is a way to find the
*single* page that has the info they need at a given time. However,
they're responding to an existing manual some 200 pages in length that is
not organized (no page numbers!!)...hence the request for brevity.
My mission (having chosen to accept it!), is to figure out what
they really want from what they're asking for.

Mary Durlak Erie Documentation Inc.
East Aurora, New York (near Buffalo)
durl -at- buffnet -dot- net

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