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> -----Original Message-----
> From: Walker, Arlen P [SMTP:Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM]
> Sent: Friday, April 24, 1998 11:09 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Re: New slant: professionalism
> Yes, but the broken books you are fixing were written by your
> contemporaries, not colleagues of long ago. The manuals that
> *supposedly* are to blame for the "computer manuals nobody can
> understand" are probably no longer in print and don't need to
> equipment they documented is retired in a museum or scrap heap
> Well, having read (but not ever having written) mil-spec manuals, I'd
> to go on record saying that anyone who thinks they were all (or even
> mostly) junk has a tenuous grasp on reality. My basic knowledge of
> computers came from Air Force manuals (four years in the Puzzle
> Palace, if
> you must know) and they were far and away better than any civillian-
> produced textbook I had seen to that point, and as good or better than
> now in print.
Just to make sure we're on the same sheet of music, I wasn't
putting down mil spec manuals. Maybe you missed the army.mil part of my
email address. I've been employed by the Army for almost 23 years. I
*will* say that military writing in general (not necessarily by
professional writers) used to be horrendous, but has improved
considerably in the last decade.
> I, too, hear the "terrible computer manual" refrain constantly. But
> invariably the speaker is referring, not to manuals on some ancient
> or some large mainframe, but specifically to the manual that shipped
> the software on their home computer -- Word, Filemaker, Excel, et al.
That is precisely my point. I said, "the broken books you are
fixing were written by your contemporaries, not colleagues of long ago."
But it seems to be our tendency as technical writers to blame such
comments on the "old computer manuals." Today, when we hear those kinds
of comments, we are burying our heads in the sand if we don't think that
they apply to what we are producing *now*, not what another generation
produced two decades ago.
> people have never even *seen* a mainframe, much less read a manual on
> They aren't referring to some mythical brain-buster; they're quite
> referring to manuals produced by writers on this list.
Exactly! Why am I responding to this post when we seem to be in
> I think the reason isn't the manuals, but is by and large cultural.
I think it may be a combination of both. To blame it strictly on
culture is another trick of the ostrich.