Re: "Two-track" documentation

Subject: Re: "Two-track" documentation
From: "Tom Murrell" <tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 12 Dec 1999 16:55:35 -0500


You don't care, but I could not agree with you less when you say:

>I always thought the Prime Directive was to write technically accurate
>information in a clear and concise manner. Seeing as how we're TECHNICAL
>writers and not AUDIENCE writers.

In my opinion--which is every bit as good as yours, sir--if you don't take
the audience into account, you are no writer. Yes, you want to write
technically accurate information in a clear and concise manner, but if you
aren't writing it TO someone, you are, at best, wasting your time, because
no one will be reading it.

Plato also wrote:

>I've written numerous books to dual and triple audiences (and some of them
>didn't suck!).

There's a statement to be proud of. I used to think I was a very arrogant
writer, but you, Sir, take arrogance to a whole new level. I would hate to
have the newbies on this list think that yours is the only worthwhile
opinion on this list. IMHO, it is quickly becoming the opposite.

Plato writes:

>The single audience concept is and inane premise that seems
>only to provide an excuse to those writers that cannot communicate complex
>concepts effectively.

As Ronald Reagan used to say, "There you go again." I see it just the
opposite. It is the incompetent writer who doesn't take the audience into
account when crafting the information. The best way to learn to write is to
visualize who is going to use the information you are providing and focus on
that audience. The writer, as opposed to the dullard who only reformats
what he or she is given, can best communicate complex concepts when trying
to communicate them to one audience only. If you try to write for
everybody, nobody gets anything out of it.

Plato writes:

>It's like a good novel. Start the reader with the familiar then suck them into
>the unfamiliar.

Technical writing is NOT novelization. There are no great themes here;
there is only one simple theme: communicate it clearly to an intended
audience. I can't state this forcefully enough; if you don't focus on your
audience, you are no writer.

Plato writes:

>"Purist" I love that term. It immediately conjures in my mind a gang of
>stone-faced Puritans standing around a foggy, gray swamp in winter preparing to
>dunk a woman in the water to test if she is a witch. "If she drowns, she's a
>true technical writer."

Don't try to make your living with analogy or metaphor, Andrew. It would
help if you had a clue what a Puritan was/is. It is obvious that you do
not. Nor do you know history.

One is not being a purist to insist on practicing fundamentals. Knowing
your audience is a very good fundamental to practice. I find too many new
writers think they have to please the client/customer/boss at the expense of
giving that individual what they need rather than what they think they want.
It is perfectly acceptable to tell the c/c/b that the approach they are
insisting on is not the correct approach. You have to be willing to walk
away from some things, if you do that, though.

Too many of us sell out good writing principles on the altar of the buck,
and that produces as much bad Technical Writing as anything.

Most of the time, I just laugh when I read your nonsense, Andrew, but I have
become concerned that new people in this profession might actually take you
seriously. I'm sure you don't cop an attitude with your customers, or that
if you do you have a lot of time on your hands.

Tom Murrell ||"If the only tool you have is a hammer,
Senior Technical Writer || everything looks like a nail."
Alliance Data Systems, Inc. || ||

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