Re: Conditional statements in instructions

Subject: Re: Conditional statements in instructions
From: Barb Philbrick <caslonsvcs -at- IBM -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 27 May 1998 18:18:31 GMT

> 1 - In the case you cite, my fear is that when people see those
>cautionary statements, they skip over the whole step. With a caution on
>*everything* including candleholders, who bothers to read them?
I think if cautionary statements are used judiciously, they would draw
attention. You're right -- you can't warn about everything. You've got
to know your audience. As one of my friends once said (specific to her
product line), "My audience is mechanics. They know that leaving the
engine on while working on a car is dangerous, so I don't need to tell
them that. What they need to know about are dangers they might not
think of, or that are introduced by my company's product."

My problem with notes or cautions in a procedure is that if they're
before the step, people might not read them, and if they're after the
step, it's probably too late.

> I'm not (or at least I hope I'm not) being merely pigheaded about
>consistent structure in procedure steps. I'm going on the assumption that,
>in a manual, you want the reader to get the rhythm/feel of the info you
>present, which is easier if you make the info subliminally self-evident.
It's hard to say if you're being pigheaded or logical -- I generally
agree with your argument for persenting information consistently.
Unfortunately, I think this is an area that we (technical writers)
don't have good data on. We could talk all day about which we *prefer*
-- but which way really keeps our users out of trouble? Are there any
other people running usability tests that have found one type of
procedure to be better than another?

Regards,

Barb


Barbara Philbrick, Caslon Services Inc.
Technical Writing. caslonsvcs -at- ibm -dot- net
Cleveland, OH




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