Re: Elegance

Subject: Re: Elegance
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 23 Apr 1998 10:13:34 -0500

> Did anybody else see the article in the current Computerworld about
> elegance?
>
I just read it. It printed out to 5 full pages of text expounding
on the virtue of brevity
:^0.

> Inelegant items included Microsoft Word, because it's developed into
> bloatware.
>
Huh? The only mention of MicroSoft was a metaphor of Window's 98
and a Swiss army knife. Trust me. I did a word search of the article.
Also the word "word" does not appear in the article. Methinks that you just
want to vent (again) your dislike for MS Word in public ;^)

> It started me thinking about manuals, which can also display elegance or
> inelegance. In my mind, you can spot elegance even if you can't identify
> the
> elements of it. On my part, I look for simple, straightforward language
> that
> conveys the point in the fewest words.
>
One Webster's definition for elegance is "scientific precision,
neatness, and simplicity." Isn't this the old "concise, complete, and
correct" principle that most every Technical Writer has heard about since
day 1 on the job and already strives to uphold? I fail to see where this
article introduces a new concept to Technical Writing field. The article
talked about software design. For many computer program designs, this
concept may be a new way of thinking.

> What elements would you look for in an elegant manual?
>
Seeming that I associate the word "elegant" with things like
expensive decor, clothing, and jewelry, I would probably look for a high
price tag for the manual ;^)

> Is there such a beast among the shrink-wraps? How about third-party books?
> Or are they bloatware too? Is brevity a hallmark of elegance?
>
I don't associate the word elegance with manuals. Instead, I
associate the words functional and informative. IMO, save the word
"elegant" for describing the attire of celebrities and the furnishings of
mansions.

As for third part books, I find them quite bloated (probably because
if your going to shell out extra for another manual, you should get more
pages per dollar). I also find the third part books too campy. I recoil
every time an instruction manual says things like, "Now wasn't that easy",
"I'll tell you a little secret", or uses cartoon characters to take me
through the steps.

> One of my nominees, albeit a bit reluctantly, is the Word book _The
> Hacker's
> Guide to Word for Windows_ by Leonhard, Chen, and Krueger. Simple
> language,
> with barrels of really useful stuff. Declarative sentences. The book is a
> lengthy one, ....
>
...Kinda defeats the association between brevity and elegance,
doesn't it?

> though, and it makes me wonder if it couldn't be done more
> elegantly. Perhaps not; the subject is Microsoft Word, after all.
>
> Tim Altom
>
Come, come, now goodfellow. I for one am tiring of reading personal
vents at software tools tucked into every niche of a post.

Mike


Michael Wing (mailto:mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com)
Principal Technical Writer
Intergraph Corporation; Huntsville, Alabama
http://www.ingr.com/iss/products/mapping/

"Humpty was pushed!"




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