In an earlier post, I wrote about using a new craft to develop a better sense of what users face in learning new technology. I took my own advice a few months back, and have taken up crochet. In this series of posts, I’ll address the lessons that technical communicators can take away from such an exercise.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the “sense evolution” of the word crotchety is “obscure.” I beg to differ. It obviously derived from somebody who was trying to learn to crochet.
1. Jargon presents a formidable barrier.
Crochet patterns are written with abbreviations such as this:
* Sc in center ch of next ch-5 loop, work 8 dc over next loop, sc in center ch of next loop, ch 5, repeat from * across to last loop, ch 2, dc in last sc. Ch 1, turn.
Before you can begin to comprehend this, you need to know what sc, ch, ch-5, loop, dc, and turn mean. The preceding pattern is rated “easy.” A pattern for experienced crocheters looks more like this:
Sl st into ch-3 picot lp, 1 sc in same lp, ch 4, sk next picot lp, 1 sc in first picot lp of group, ch 4, in next ch-7 lp work (1 sc, ch 3, 1 sc), * (ch 4, sk next picot lp, 1 sc in second picot lp of group) 2 times, (ch 4, 1 sc in first picot lp) 2 times, ch 4, in next ch-7 lp work (1 sc, ch 3, 1 sc) *; rep from * to * 2 times more, (ch 4, 1 sc in second picot lp) 2 times, ch 4. Join with sl st to first sc.
Trying to read jargon-laden documentation feels like learning a new language. Can you avoid the jargon? If not, how will you support your readers in learning the new terminology?