What a surprise: a well-written instruction manual

When I wrote computer documentation for many years, it was a point of honor–or perhaps the desire to keep my job–to write easy-to-follow documentation about complex subjects. I wished the technical writers at other companies took the same approach.

Lately, a lot of instructions are being supplied in foreign languages either without a translation or with the kind of translation one ends up with when using a free on-line translation application, as in:

  1. Please to understand, unit is not to plug up nose or dangerous badness will happen.
  2. Standard wall outlet is where you’re to be plugging in everything that you plug in unless your house does not provide power from generating plant. (Nose not included.)
This drawing actually includes explanatory text for each step.
This drawing actually includes explanatory text for each step.

That said, it’s a pleasure to take a new digital camera out of the box and, after noting all the dials, controls, gauges and other items that look like they’re Star Trek ready, it’s a relief to see that the instructions are: (a) easy to follow, (b) written in English, (c) include illustrations that actually match the gizmos on the camera.

So far, I’ve learned what most of them do even though I don’t yet know why I might want to do some of those things. The battery has been charged by plugging the charger into a standard all outlet that is getting standard power from North Georgia EMC rather than anyone’s nose.

It’s almost time to insert the battery and memory card into the camera and switch on the power switch. No pictures yet, but for a guy who grew up with Honeywell FILM cameras, digital cameras are about as natural a way for me to take pictures as nuclear physics. I need all the instructions I can get.

No pix yet, but soon.


Malcolm R. Campbell, who no longer writes computer documentation, is now writing fiction. (Yes, I know, some operating manuals are fiction, possibly fantasy produced by sadists.)