Simplify, simplify, simplify

Subject: Simplify, simplify, simplify
From: Laura Hardy <LadyLHardy -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 17 Sep 1998 22:44:41 EDT

In regard to writing documentation for novices, the idea of simplifying and
writing in the most basic terms was brought home to me this afternoon when I
sat in on a testing session for a section of the program for which I am
writing the user manual. Watching this individual actually work with the
program (and she was supposed to try to figure out the system herself, with
little to no guidance from the testing supervisor) made me realize that I
would have to be even MORE explicit in my written instructions than I thought
I had been.

I remember that when I was in Journalism School more than 10 years ago, I
learned that stories written for the average newspaper should be written at no
more than an 8th-grade reading level. Recently, I heard that the reading level
has dropped to 6th grade, and sometimes I feel like it's even lower for the
standard computer user. Yesterday, during our weekly department meeting,
someone said that the group of people who will eventually use this program,
when asked what they wanted to see included in this program, mentioned that
they would like to hear an actual human voice tell them what to do as they use
the program. The only way we could make it any easier for them to use the
program is if we supplied an actual live human being along with the program
who would actually do the work for the user. Which is sad, really, because
this program already does virtually everything but the dishes. Pretty soon, as
someone in my department suggested, I'm going to have to start peppering this
manual with REALLY basic instructions featuring the Letter People, like
kindergarten teachers use. And, in fact, a kindergarten teacher, when hearing
what I do for a career, gave me this advice, "Keep everything in pennies and
bunny rabbits."

For what it's worth . . .

Cleveland, OH

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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