RE. How do I teach manual writing in a four-hour seminar?

Subject: RE. How do I teach manual writing in a four-hour seminar?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 4 Jul 2000 16:04:05 -0400

Peter Shea wonders: <<How do I teach manual writing in a four-hour

You don't. If it were possible, you and I would have to quit our day jobs
and start looking for honest work. <g>

<<Many organizations will want me to teach their staff how to write manuals
(which I've done in multi-session classes). But for the one-day seminar that
many businesses want, how do I compress the steps into a short period while
doing justice to the process?>>

It simply can't be done--and it can't be done simply. If you're lucky, the
people already come to the seminar with basic writing skills and a strong
desire to learn how to apply them to an entirely new type of writing; you'd
also be lucky if they already know the basics of the business and only need
specific instruction on how to improve their skills. Then you can focus on
specific problems. If they don't fit in either category, it's simply not
going to work. Whatever the audience, if you're constrained to a single day
or even less, the best you can hope to accomplish is to work with their
managers before the seminar to identify the top problems that must be
solved, and focus intensively on the subset of those problems that give the
client the quickest and most dramatic payback.

But the bottom line remains the same: something as complicated as technical
communication can't be learned in a single day.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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