In the context of user assistance and documentation for the end user, readability refers more to the usability of the content that we prepare. Writers find it difficult to review content that they receive from the developers. Here are some steps that writers need to follow to ensure that the content meets the goals of the end user.
Reviewing means more than correcting the grammar mistakes. It is easier to find those missing articles and pointing out those misplaced prepositions. However, you really need some effort and time to read each sentence and try to understand from the user’s perspective. Think beyond mere framing of sentences in the strictest grammatical sense. Consider the advantages of right usage where the user is able to achieve her goals. The best approach is to scan through the content initially for any glaring grammar mistakes. Then, read through the text to see if it makes sense to the reader. However, make sure you collect adequate information about the audience from the writer before you judge the content and the errors in it.
Steer from developer’s logic to the end user’s needs. More often than not, developers write content that is so grammatically accurate. Do not get impressed already. When you receive such content from the developers and are forced to place in the document, make it a point to review it thoroughly. Developer’s have some underlying knowledge and pre-defined logic. They write the content with this framework and fail to understand the needs of the end user.
Though your end users are well-equipped with all the required technical jargon, they can easily get baffled when they read a developer’s paragraph that has a logic on its own. Such logic works only in the context of the development environment, where the developers have their own set of conditions within which they operate. However, users might not be in the same environment and they can get lost in understanding the logic of the developers.
For example, when there are instructions to fill a form, developers do not feel the need to provide information about each field. As a writer, you need to ask them questions about each field in the form and provide adequate reasoning. On the other extreme, some developers provide more details about the tables and schemas in the database that are irrelevant to the end user. Remember that the content needs to be refined inevitably.
Establish coherence.The other common problem with the content provided by developers is that there will be no coherence between various sections. Developers consider instructions to be a series of steps and follow the sequence as they understand the relationship between the various steps. They consider such knowledge to be obvious and that users should know it. However, the truth is far from this. Most administrators get confused when they are given a series of instructions without any coherence between them. Hence, a small error might force them to reach out to customer support. Adequate description of the context often avoids these problems.
Thus, it can be said that writers need to spend some time reviewing the content, whether it is written by them or provided by the developers or subject matter experts. In fact, writers need to dedicated more time for review if the content is provided by the experts.
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