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

> 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

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.


Michael Wing (mailto:mjwing -at- ingr -dot- com)
Principal Technical Writer
Intergraph Corporation; Huntsville, Alabama

"Humpty was pushed!"

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