I came across this poster recently and it made me chuckle.
Are you ever accused of taking too long to get to the point? I have been.
As the providers of information, we need to set a context and to give all the information necessary, as well as asking for action, for a decision or for information.
But putting a lot of contextual stuff up front risks the audience not knowing why they are reading our words of wit and wisdom, so they may lose interest and wander off. Their time is precious, so they need to get exactly what they need, formatted how they need it, with a minimum of surplus data cluttering up the message.
Of course every single reader has a different definition of what is essential and what is clutter.
So how can we keep everyone happy?
Different people like to consume their information in different ways: graphical, tabular, descriptive, summarised, full detail, in situ, referenced.
Some need lots of background while others can cut to the chase. That’s why tailoring how we document stuff matters if we want to get the right result.
Here are some ways we’ve found to make documents that can help our readers.