The difference between good instructions and bad (see the above photo) often boils down to whether or not the author has taken the time to really consider the audience. In the picture above, the instructions have clearly been translated, but poorly. The author clearly did not consider an English speaking audience while translating and editing those instructions. On the flip side, here is a set of easy to follow instructions from Wikihow.com on how to dance. The author of this wiki clearly has a good grasp on the audience. All of the pictures are easy to understand, and the instructions themselves are easy to follow and understand. Creating documents and instructions which are easily accessible to a broad range of people is very important for technical communication. A lot of times in instruction manuals, you have to flip through several pages of information that would be better suited at the end of the manual. “Early communication reduces later resistance,” says Hibbard in her article about change and resistance to policy/procedure writing.
One way to ensure the success and effectiveness of a manual or how to guide is to test it on people beforehand. This is known as the “feedback-driven model”(Ceraso 240). This will most likely require a lot of extra work and time depending on the complexity of the process you are trying to break down. For instance, “a manual for a complex product might require extensive usability testing”(Ceraso 240). Yet even testing to this degree will not solve all of your problems since d”developers cannot possibly anticipate all the needs, practices, and activities that users will find for technologies”(Ceraso 245). Yet this should not be something to fear. Technical writing will always have some way in which it can be improved upon. This should be looked at as a challenge: to try and create the most functional document for the correct audience.
Literacy, the ability to read and write, is a skill that can be applied to any business or workplace situation. Written communication is a major communication modality used to communicate complex ideas through a relatively fast and easy medium. With the rise of internet technology over the past decade the need to write and interpret texts across the internet has called for an increasing need in individual literacy. The role of textual literacy in the 21st century workplace is more prominent than ever.
“Illiteracy costs United States businesses and society at least $225 billion annually because of lost workforce productivity, crime and unemployment” (Sessoms 2013). Illiteracy in the United States is a growing problem with new forms of communication modalities such as youtube.com and other internet mediums that allow citizens of the United States to acquire information through videos and other non-written forms of communication. Since every form of communication is not found via videos on the internet the need to interpret written texts found outside of these internet platforms is becoming a more pressing issue. Written communication is an everyday occurrence in the workplaces of the United States. My father, a project manager of Macy’s website development team, has to sift through hundreds of emails on a daily basis that consist in written communication. Many other jobs include similar tasks. Even though other forms of communication modalities exist in modern day workplace scenarios, such as oral communication, no other modality thoroughly expresses ideas and information in such a concrete way as written communication. Written communication allows an individual the ability to display information in a specific way that is not replaceable by other forms of communication. This is because written communication allows the user the ability to edit, postulate advanced ideology and cite justification from other written references in an easy and understandable format. Written texts have the ability to last for a longer time than oral communication which can be useful if an individual wants to reference a written text at some point in the future.
In the case of my father, emails consisting of written texts allow for an easy way to understand and respond to any sort of problems that need quick solutions. Written communication allows my father the convenience of understanding quickly what problem he or another person in his development team has encountered and the ability to express clearly and concretely what measures should be used to fix it. If these problems were to pose themselves through another modality of communication such as a video it would take my father a longer time to make a video in response to the problem his team is facing. Fittingly Gail Sessom writes that “Workers who cannot read and interpret basic signs and instructions compromise safety, slow production and cause errors that affect profits” (Sessom 2013). Not being able to read or write in workplace setting can be the decision between whether or not a worker will make a product or deliverable by deadline. If an employee is spending their time interpreting information through a video or audio medium it will take the employee longer to load the video and audio, understand the information and reply to the situation then it would if the information was presented in a written from of communication. In most workplace scenarios written communication is a necessity, no other form of communication modality can display information in such a fast, convenient and proficient way as written communication; therefore, making it one of the most prominent forms of communication in the workplace.
Sessoms, Gail. (2013). Effects of illiteracy on business. Chron. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/effects-illiteracy-business-22898.html
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