The Power of Assumption

Alright, here it goes. This is my first ever blog post!  I never thought it would be about technical communications, but enrolling in this techcomm class at RIT has already exposed me to many new technological experiences.

So our first blog assignment was to select a post from one of the five techcomm blogs we selected to follow for the duration of this class, and summarize said post for our classmates and any other techcomm individuals who happen to stumble onto our page :).

After reading through a couple posts from each site, I settled on one from Rhonda Bracey’s page: CyberText Consulting. The post was from mid December, and titled “The problem with “simple” instructions”.  I chose this post because it brought up some very good points about keeping your audience in mind when creating instructions. This week in class we touched on this very subject, so I thought this particular post was pertinent.

Her post was about an unfortunate and unpleasant experience she had changing the cartridge on her under the sink water filtration system. This is one thing I am finding that I really enjoy about Rhonda’s posts, they are not all focused on the “business” side of techcomm, she is able to use her everyday experiences to communicate good techcomm advice.

Her post describes the packaging for her replacement cartridge, and the lack luster instructions that were provided. From her description it seems the manufacturer assumed that the consumer would be someone who had some experience with plumbing already.  Rhonda sounds like she has had a little, but even that didn’t help her smoothly move through the replacement process.  After a water logged kitchen and a second attempt she was able to get the job done.

Rhonda’s experience brought home the importance of not assuming your audience is intimately familiar with the subject at hand. It’s important to keep things simple and easy to follow, but not so vague as to neglect readers with less exposure to your material.  Unfortunately for Rhonda, the manufacturer of her replacement cartridge underestimated the power of assumption, and it resulted in an overall negative experience for the consumer.

Great post by Rhonda, she even went as far as rewriting the instructions to be more inclusive of naïve users :). If you care to indulge the link to her post is below.

Diana Lynn Schwartz




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