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A Good Response to "No One Reads the Help Anyway"

by Tom Johnson on Dec 11, 2007 •
categories: technical-writing

In this three-minute STC Atlanta podcast, Judy Glick Smith says she's tired of trying to convince sales people of the value of documentation. She says she's "tired of fighting the good fight."

No doubt as a technical writer you've heard the phrase, "No one reads the help anyway." They let out a small chuckle to indicate that they're only kidding, although deep down they're being totally serious. Many people believe help files are almost insignificant except to a small percentage of people.

But the next time you hear someone say, "No one reads the help anyway," say, "Yah, no one uses Google either."

This will lead to a puzzling follow-up question -- What do you mean? I use Google all the time.

Then you say, What do you use Google for? To search for answers, solutions, and information when you have questions?

Google is one large help file.

Searching Help and Searching Google are the same fundamental thing

Update Jan 2008:
I updated my thoughts on this post with some new reflections.

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.