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: Printing an incomplete manual From:Lorraine Doyle <ladoyle -at- POP -dot- TIAC -dot- NET> Date:Thu, 3 Apr 1997 11:21:11 -0500
Yes, Melonie, I'm willing to bet that most of us on this list have put
together an incomplete manual that was destined to be obsolete by the time
that the first page was turned by the first gentle reader. It happens all
the time. Its also true that these manuals have a longer shelf life than
you would like them to have. Nearly immortal!
Its a noble effort to get information to people when they need it, but this
effort is often handicapped by the other pressures of product ship. Since
the product is still coming to maturation, the knowledge of the product is
also still coming to maturation.
Here are some of the insights that my writers and I have used to get through
Advise your readers in the preface, throughout the text and at the back of
the book that this book is complete.
Offer them a complete manual in the very near future for free.
Make it absolutely typo free.
Include support numbers (technical, customer, marketing, whatever) in a
place where they can find it. If they will need a serial number of some
such other identifying number, include it in the book (make a label, make a
conspicuous spot for it to be entered)but include what you can that will be
If you can, get a customer list of the people who got these incomplete books
and call them to remind them that a complete book is available. This also
puts in direct contact with your readership -- a great chance to find out
what is really important to them.
You have an excellent idea to update the printed copy with a regularly
maintained help system. Tell your readership that the help system is coming
on such and such a date and stick to it. Don't just stick to product
update/revision schedules-- the information is more incomplete than the
product and has to have a schedule that will compensate for that deficiency.
Molly Bloom, Inc.
The Best of Everything to You Always
email: ladoyle -at- thehuntress -dot- com
voice: 617-666-5424,fax: 617-666-5883