The project that would not end!

Subject: The project that would not end!
From: Robert Heath <robert -dot- heath -at- FRITZ -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 19 May 1999 16:44:38 -0700

A few weeks ago, I was assigned to help in the following project: completing
a 970-page manual that was begun two years ago by one author (she left the
company late last year), continued by another author (he picked it up in
September '98, but quit two weeks ago with work left to do), and has been
left to our department of two writers (myself included) and one editor
(though we are all helping with the editing now) to finish and clean up by
June 1. (Sorry about the length of that sentence...)

Though the outline of the book is well-organized, the chapters themselves
are not so well written. They detail how different screens in the
application can be used. Each screen receives a brief intro, a screenshot,
procedures for using the screen, and a table of fields and their
descriptions. The main content of each chapter, however, consists of a
section entitled "Things you should know," with a bulleted list of points of
info the user needs to know to use the screen.

The whole concept of a "Things you should know" section is absurd, for what
else is in a user manual other than things the user should know. And to have
these "things" in a bulleted list makes the whole section look more like an
outline rather than a polished, helpful, accessible piece of writing.

Now, if you were in our position, would you push the deadline even further
back (remember that the manual has been written over the course of two
years!) and rewrite the chapters (all 970 pages of them) so that you could
submit a winner? Or would you simply copyedit, fill in whatever holes still
exist in the content, and do all of the production stuff to ready it for
publication, but leave the content of each chapter as is so you could get on
with life?


Robert Heath
Technical Writer
Fritz Companies, Inc.
San Francisco, CA

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