Assignment #5 – Document and Page Design
". . .the difficulty in reading technical materials is due more to the weaknesses in the writing than to the difficulty or complexity of the technical content."- Edmund Weiss (The Writing System for Engineers and Scientists)
Assignment #5 - Overview
Documents with user-friendly design are easy-to-read—and easily understood. Surely our Lannon book’s excellent layout hasn’t escaped your notice: easy-to-follow tables of content; good overviews; plenty of visual examples; notes; headers; etc. As a result, you most likely skim a chapter first, to get a sense of what’s included in it due to the success of its visual design, instead of plodding forward through text-heavy, convoluted chunks of information. Think of an agent looking over a proposal contract—she most likely thumbs through it and glances at the headers to see what’s covered where (as well as the table of contents), and to what degree, before reading it straight through from page 1.
Your task as a writer is to capture your readers’ attention with an effective design—whether the document is online or printed. Think about pieces that have been difficult for you to read—a textbook, manual, or online help files, perhaps; chances are that they had long paragraphs, little white space, and few other visual breaks on the page. We might even say that technical writing, like poetry, needs room to “breathe” on the page. The reader needs to be able to absorb it. If poetry were crammed together in prose-like form—instead of with helpful white space around it, etc.—it would be even more difficult to understand (lol).
Effective Design: Elements
An effective design uses the following graphic elements to its advantage:
• Type Size and Font
• Type Style
The above-listed elements call attention to main points, break up pages into readable sections, and allow readers to use the document as it addresses their particular needs.
These enhancements, however, should be used with caution. It is easy to overload a document with too many graphical elements, or too much variety (e.g., mixing typefaces rather than using various styles of the same typeface, or by using too many colors).
Assignment #5: Directions
Revisit the VHS blinking 12:00 article located online at:
Your task for this Assignment #5 is to revise the text and design for quicker/easier reading. The first step is to, again, read the content objectively, and think about how you might convey the information more effectively.
Audience is an “average” non-technical reader who needs to know how to remedy this VCR “problem”. As well—some of us might not have ever really used a VCR: As we transitioned from LPs to CDs some time ago, VCRs are certainly the older, soon-to-be-obsolete media when it comes to home entertainment … so make sure that you’ve got adequate overview / intro, and definition / description material. However, watch that you don’t get “off in the weeds” with background information—when in doubt, go back to Lannon’s examples, available in pretty much every chapter that we’ve read so far.
Some things to keep in mind:
With what I’ve mentioned above, rewrite the directions, etc., so that it’s more direct, easier to follow, and “objective” (remove any personal remarks, “I” statements, etc.). You most likely want to provide some sort of overview of the issue; definition / description elements, etc.
You are not required to add visuals, though you are certainly welcome to do so.
Since you’re rewriting a document, make sure that you’re not plagiarizing any of this author’s material. Composition / phrasing must be your own. Again, though—Lannon has great “rhetorical models” throughout our text for you to consider. Think of the EPA document—several of you quite successfully utilized that as a structural model.
Assignment #5 will be evaluated on the following points:
• Accessibility of the information
• Visual appeal of the document as a whole (although “visuals” aren’t required)
• Readability (edited for grammar, punctuation, spelling and clarity)
• Headings, subheadings
• Layout accessibility
• And—overall—by document’s end, does the reader get the information he / she so urgently needs in a streamlined, easy-to-access fashion? (That VCR is blinking—help them.)
Length: 1-2 pages. This assignment really is an exercise in functionality: that being said, less is sometimes more—the temptation sometimes is to write 4 pages to make sure to cover all your bases and make sure that all information is included, whereas you might need only a single page. What’s the advantage of a one-page document?—everything’s immediately right there for the reader: the cream—the crucial elements—rise to the top (to help myself to a metaphor).
Submissions: Post your completed assignment via Course Tools > Assignments > Assignment #5 in Microsoft Word (.doc) format. You may also submit an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) file, if you’re using a word-processing application other than Word.
Please Note: I cannot open non-Word (.doc) or non-Acrobat (.pdf) files. If you’re using something like WordPerfect or DocX, etc., you must save / print to PDF to submit it to me . . . otherwise, I can’t open / grade it. Thanks.
|Due By (Pacific Time)||02/08/2015 03:00 pm|
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