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Technical Writing by Mark Metcalfe, Publications Professional

The information professional must employ several ways to communicate ideas because people have different ways of processing information. The considerations that determine how information should be presented depends on such things as human factors, user experience, and behavioral preferences of the consumer, plus the technical depth, volume, and complexity of the information.

In the broadest of terms, information has three main distinctions: disposable, point-of-need reference, and competence training.

  • Disposable information is necessary when there is a need to acquire temporary knowledge to accomplish an immediate goal. For example, a person gets a temporary password for a single login session. The password must be transmitted and received, but it does not need to be retained after use. We provide some necessary types of one-use information such as installation help and guides, which becomes unnecessary after one completes the installation.
  • Reference information at the point-of-need is important for the experienced user who needs specific information to continue working. Usually, reference material is uncomplicated and should assist the experienced user by filling in gaps of knowledge.
  • Training can take a number of forms, including single-use quick starts, comprehensive user guides, focused tutorials, and abstract methodologies; each information type is designed to develop proficiency. By contrast, proficiency is not the goal for disposable or reference material.

There are many finer distinctions, but it all comes down to providing the right information at the right time.

Mark Metcalfe

Posted on Friday, June 12, 2009 12:43 PM | Back to top

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