TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Writing simple procedures From:chuckm -at- MDHOST -dot- CSE -dot- TEK -dot- COM Date:Thu, 4 May 1995 11:19:28 PDT
Glenda Jeffery wrote:
> I have a question about this -- at what point is something so
> obvious that you don't want to break it out into two steps?
> For example:
> 1. Move the cursor to the XXX toolbox.
> 2. Click on the YYY icon.
> 1. Click on the YYY icon in the XXX toolbox.
> Is the first form too obvious? It seems so to me, but then
> again, you want to write these kinds of things to the lowest
> common denominator, right?
I believe in providing as little information as required to complete
the task. In every Windows manual I've worked on I start the manual
by stating that "we" expect the user to know how to use Windows.
Thus, we don't explain how to select menus or icons, open folders or
anything else that someone using Windows ought to know. Our manual
is about our product, not Windows. Microsoft can explain how to use
I've noticed the same thing about Macintosh software manuals. The manual
writer always states that the manual assumes the user knows how to
use the Macintosh. The software manuals do not explain how to use
the mouse, how to double-click, how to select icons, how to copy
files to other directories or disks, etc.
Thus, in the examples above, I would use the second form. It is simpler;
it provides enough information to complete the task.
OTOH, if you wanted to write to a lower level, you could even rewrite
step 1 as: Move the mouse to locate the cursor over the XXX toolbox.
After all, as it written above, step 1 doesn't explain how to move the
Since most users refer to the manual when they have a problem rather than
how to learn to use the software, I prefer to get to the point as quickly