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Poor Technical Writing?

26th December 2011 Posted in Blog, Documentation 0 Comments

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When you want to do something technical, you might look for instructions online.  For example, if you wanted to build your own ‘Clapper,’ why not try to create this piece of convenient technology at home with a few pieces of seemingly basic tools?

In first stumbling upon this documentation, you might have thought you were onto something, but then you looked closely to see the limitations of technical writing for the masses.

The Clapper Instructions from Hell

The schematics alone are enough to make most readers wince, but the technical writing also leaves you wanting an engineering degree.  Though the steps are carefully outlined, this piece of writing is obviously written for an audience that has a certain level of technical knowledge.

The good news is that there is a section on the common mistakes and problems along the way.  But, again, this document assumes the reader is going to understand the basic terms and instructions – which may not be possible for everyone who wants to bring the Clapper technology into their home.

The truth is that technical writing can be limiting, and even though these instructions can help you bring a fun piece of technical equipment into your home for about $6, the effort it may take to enact these instructions might cost you more in the sedatives you might need to take after figuring it out.

Sometimes, technical writing is challenging, but this piece could be made better with more definition of terms, fewer technical phrases, and perhaps a clear definition of who the end user should be.  For the everyday person, this probably isn’t the best way to save money – or sanity.

What examples of poor documentation have made you cringe? Please share with us in a comment.

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