Re: Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer

Subject: Re: Culture, or What it means to be a Technical Writer
From: Mark Baker <mbaker -at- OMNIMARK -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 8 May 1998 14:59:07 -0400

Mary Durlak wrote:


> "AAAArghghghghghgh!!" screamed the User, running away from the
>1,203-page manual in panic. "All I wanted was to write a letter!!!!!"
>On Fri, 8 May 1998, Mark Baker wrote:
> ...
>> We do not stand between the engineer and the user, we stand shoulder to
>> shoulder with the engineer, facing the user.


But don't you see, the engineer communicates through the design of the
product. 1,203 page user manuals result from writers trying to explain what
engineers have done. If we make common cause with engineers in creating a
complete product package that is designed to facilitate the users task we
will describe only what the users needs to know to do the task, and cannot
discover from the design of the product. Good products are designed for
discoverability. Good documentation is an extension of that design, serving
to enhance the inherent discoverability of the product.

It is the writers who forget this, and who simply translate the spec, who
end up creating 1,203 page manual with useful instructions like "To print,
click once on the file menu. Move the mouse pointer down to the Print
command. A dialog box will appear. In the text box labeled "Number of
copies", type the number of copies you want to print ... " etc. etc. etc.

As co-creators with the engineers we communicate only that which the product
does not communicate itself. Bad docs are long translations of long
technical specifications. Good docs are short original compositions that
complete the usability of the product.

---
Mark Baker
Manager, Corporate Communications
OmniMark Technologies Corporation
1400 Blair Place
Gloucester, Ontario
Canada, K1J 9B8
Phone: 613-745-4242
Fax: 613-745-5560
Email mbaker -at- omnimark -dot- com
Web: http://www.omnimark.com




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