When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

07 November 2005

Bad idea.

David Pogue has an interesting "open letter" to electronics manufacturers in the November 2, 2005 edition of the New York Times: "10 Ways to Please Us, the Customers."

His second "commandment' bugs me a little. See if you can spot why:
II. Thou shalt hire native English speakers to translate thine instruction manual. "When the camera focus is not so possible, hold the shutter button vaguely until the beeping tone is heard." Is that really how your company wants to address customers?

Talk about New Math. You'll spend millions of dollars developing some breakthrough gizmo, but won't spring for somebody to rewrite your manual in proper English? I know some high schoolers who'd do the job for $50 and 10 free ring tones.
Oh, yeah. That's who you want writing your product manuals.

I know that Mr. Pogue had his tongue planted firmly in cheek, but it does cost a *little* more than that to have a competent translator and technical editor rework a user manual for you. God forbid you should use a high-schooler, unless the high school is Stuyvesant or Bronx Science (and then, I hope said high-schooler would be savvy enough to charge you the going rate.)

Still, Pogue's main point stands - the costs of hiring a competent technical writer or editor are a drop in the bucket compared to product development cost, and I would add that a good, readable manual can cut those pesky support costs like nobody's business.

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