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© Ugur Akinci
How detailed your technical writing should be? This common problem is sometimes also referred to as the “granularity” issue.
For example, consider the following alternative description of the same procedure:
DESCRIPTION 1 (not so granular):
- Open First.html in IE9.
DESCRIPTION 2 (very granular):
- In your browser’s URL window, enter the following URL and press Return: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/products/ie/home
- Download and install Internet Explorer 9 (IE9) to your machine.
- Launch IE9.
- Select File > Open to browse and find the file First.html inside your Windows Explorer.
- Select and open the file in IE9.
Obviously, granularity depends on the experience level of your audience. If you’re writing for a group of experienced system administrators, to ask them to follow the second set of instructions would be insulting to them. You’d lose their respect and interest right away. However, if you are writing for a group of senior citizens with minimal understanding of computers, then they’d be pleased with the latter set of commands and panicked with the first one.
One other criterion is whether your audience consists of EXTROVERTS or INTROVERTS.
Introverts need a lot of information and time to digest new material and respond to it.
Extroverts, by contrast, want to barge their way to the conclusion by asking many questions and doing it themselves.
Thus, if think you are writing for introverts, it would help to be granular and detailed in your steps.
For extroverts, you can skip some of the detailed mid-steps and help them reach the final step of a procedure as expediently as possible.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons project.)