Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recasting the recipe

Just because I do something well does not necessarily mean I like doing it. Cooking, for example. Hence, I steer clear of all recipe booklets, cooking websites, and similar. But a weekend conversation on FaceBook about things planned for the Holi break needed me to sit down and write a recipe for my friend, fellow techwriter Samartha Vashishth. One look at my mail and he wrote back saying "put in blog post" etc. Hence.
I know the first list in that recipe should've been an unordered one. :-)
Let's take our edit hats off while we look at the recipe, shall we? 

How is it different from standard recipes? Here's how:
  • It assumes you are doing only this task and nothing else. There's no "Do X and keep aside" instructions (despite possibilities); there's only a linear task flow.
    Lesson for techcomm: Do not introduce branches into a procedure.
  • It does not just list the ingredients but group them according to when they're going to be used in the process and what they're going to be used together with.
    Lesson for techcomm: Grouping of logically related items aids in (i) comprehension (ii) task completion.
  • It does not have pictures :)
    Lesson for techcomm: Use pictures only if they are essential to performing the task.
How I could've made it better? Listed the utensils, perhaps. No recipe that I've come across ever lists them (except, maybe, cakes, and that too a grudging 5" baking tray mention) even though they are very important to the task at hand. Notice how, in step 9, I suddenly introduce a utensil (bharta toaster) that is otherwise not logically related to the cooking of haleem? Bad!


Deepesh MD said...

Good tips, may be you could elaborate little more on writing better recipe blogs. Probably you already have one?

J Medley said...

Good advice. To take this one step further, when I write an install guide I try to write something that is linear from page one to whatever. In other words after a page is turned an installer should never need to go back.
I also try to prepare the user for what's ahead. For example, if step ten requires information that was on screen in step two, I tell the user to make a note of it.

J Medley said...

In step two, that is.