Re: Not allowed to change templates?

Subject: Re: Not allowed to change templates?
From: "Wing, Michael J" <mjwing -at- INGR -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 May 1998 08:33:11 -0500

Personally, I've abdicated from getting into long and fruitless battles
about styles. I'm one who is much more interested in the content than the
fluff. I've had my share of meetings where content, design, and workflow
was the scheduled agenda for discussion but it ended up being a battle about
whether to use two spaces or one, round or square bullets, positioning of
captions, and so forth.

At one meeting in a former department, I was trying to present a methodology
to enhance our operating procedures, and to also simplify instructions.
Within a minute after distributing the handouts, someone started commenting
on my use of square bullets. This triggered a pro-round, pro-square debate.
When I tried to focus the group on the purpose of the meeting (content and
design), another writer says, "Well, the customer gets confused if the
bullet style changes." To which I replied with an incredulous tone, "The
customer sues if the instructions lead to damage or harm regardless of
whether the bullets are square or round!" We moved back on topic for about
20 or 30 nanoseconds, when someone else commented that the caption was not
bold. I slapped my hand on the table, said, "I give up", and my manager
listened to a one hour rant (while she tried not to snicker) about how it is
much easier to teach a pig to fly than it is to get a group of Tech Writers
to talk about content instead of format.

Therefore, as a result of weathering numerous format and style wars, I
pretty much leave style issues to those whose jobs (namely, the editors) are
to research them and those writers who worry about the icing much more than
they do the cake ;^0 When I need a style that is not available on a
department template, I simply attach an additional, custom-designed template
to my documents. Fortunately, I'm an in a group that has some style and
format specialists who are in agreement and who are flexible enough to adapt
the templates (or allow supplementary templates) as the situation requires.


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

"Humpty was pushed!"

> Believe it or not, there are plenty of companies out there that operate
> this way. I just left such a company, partly because they have extremely
> rigid "standards" that took about 6 months and an act of Congress to
> change. For instance, the company standards stated that we were to use two
> spaces after every period - never mind the fact that the rest of the
> publishing world abandoned that practice umpteen years ago! We went
> through a major "study" of this issue last year, but despite the urging of
> all the writers to change the standard, the "production team leader"
> (someone with no writing experience whatsoever) made the decision to stick
> with the two spaces.
> I can understand a company wanting some consistency in its manuals, but
> companies that refuse to change to keep up with the times are eventually
> going to get left in the dust.
> Chris Welch-Hutchings
> Sr. Technical Writer
> Home Wireless Networks, Inc.
> cwhutchings -at- homewireless -dot- com

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