Technical writers have long searched for a writing method that’s easy to implement and use and that results in formatted documentation that pleases management, developers, and users alike. While some writers may still be searching for a one-size-fits-all method, many have adopted the Information Mapping method of organizing and formatting documentation and other printed materials.
This article briefly explains the Information Mapping method and looks at its advantages and disadvantages, modifications to the method other writers have made, suggestions for implementing this method, difficulties encountered by writers when trying to implement this method at their companies, and resources for obtaining further information on the Information Mapping method.
Wonderful and Woeful Warnings
One of the true delights I’ve had as an editor is the checking of Warnings, Cautions, and Notes. It thrilled me to think that something I edited, if neglected, would lead to a fellow human being being fried to a crisp or to the destruction of a multimillion-dollar piece of equipment.
“ They better listen to this one,” I would think as I pored over a manuscript and imagined the news-making cataclysms that would occur because someone ignored our warning or caution. The rest of the manual was mere description, a collection of forgettable words, incomprehensible illustrations, and boring part numbers. This, however, was something dramatic. “The End is Coming” … especially if you neglect “our” warning. However, with time, I came to realize that not all the people I checked were as much “into it” as myself.
Do Technical Editors Focus on the Wrong Things?
Jean Hollis Weber
Too many technical editors focus on the details and don’t pay enough attention to the bigger picture when reviewing documents.
Is this statement true, or do writers, managers and others only perceive it to be true? If it’s true, why does this happen? If it isn’t true, why do so many people think that’s what editors do?
Mapping Information for Retrievability
Melanie G. Flanders
This is the Information Age. We are relentlessly inundated with more data than we could ever process in a dozen lifetimes. People don’t read documents for the sheer fun of it (unless it’s a good sci-fi or romance novel); they pick them up because they need specific information. The sooner that information is located, the happier the reader is. When someone consults a manual, he or she is usually in trouble and doesn’t open the book with a whole lot of patience in hand. When someone is in the middle of a task, retrieving information is an interruption to the workflow. It is even more imperative to locate online information quickly — the fewer screens that must be accessed and read, the fewer mouse clicks or keystrokes made, the quicker the user can navigate through the information and return to the original task or go on to other things.