What we do

Subject: What we do
From: Richard Mateosian <srm -at- C2 -dot- ORG>
Date: Tue, 16 May 1995 09:52:09 -0700

I found this on another list and am posting it here with the author's
permission. In the course of discussing another matter, Liz had identified
herself as a tech writer, giving rise to the following exchange:

Date: Mon, 15 May 1995 12:06:55 -0700
From: Liz Bohn <Lbohn -at- UCSD -dot- EDU>

>Malicious fanasies are easy if you write computer documentation. Do I get
>to blame you for those manuals on my shelf

Oh yes, you do! I spend HOURS thinking up ways to frustrate 'altruistic
end systems' (yes, I found that phrase in some documentation - not mine
:-) - wish I'd thought of it, though. heh heh). It apparently means

Here are some of my very favorite ways to frustrate people:

1. Index every hundredth word. This results in a nice, beefy index that
is of absolutely no use to anyone.

2. Save my employer time and money by omitting commas colons and
semi-colons and by joining sentences whenever possible.

3. Clarity takes time and wastes space. I could say this, and use 10
lines (including spaces between lines):

1. Turn on your machine.

2. Insert the CD into the CD-ROM drive.

3. Double click on the "Tapeworm" icon.

You will hear a recording of "The Worms Crawl In" as the
software loads.

4. Press <RETURN> to start the program.

OR, I could say it this way, thereby saving 6 lines, and adding to the
altruistic end systems' frustrations:

Boot up your computer, being EXTREMELY CAREFUL that all connections to
external drives and or devices are inserted and activated correctly.
Failure to do this could result! Then inject the CD into the appropriate
external device, which is usually called "e:". Hit enter when the worm
crawls across your CRT.

See?? It's almost as good as fiction, except in technical writing I haven't
figured out any way yet to have dead guys wandering into alive people's
bedrooms. (I only write the documentation, I don't do the programming.)


Thanks, Liz. ...RM

Dr. Richard Mateosian Freelance Technical Writer srm -at- c2 -dot- org
Review Editor, IEEE Micro Vice President, STC Berkeley Chapter

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