I recently submitted three cheques to an individual, verbally indicating to him that two of the cheques were post-dated. Naturally, his office worker promptly deposited all three cheques, thereby incurring two NSF charges.
Just as doctors make the worst patients, technical communicators often neglect to write instructions down. What we have here is a failure to communicate. They say hindsight is 20/20, but 20/20 simply denotes average (not superior) vision. As professional communicators, we need to be far above average in our written instructions.
Therefore, in superior hindsight, I would have documented the cheques as follows:
- A note written on the cheques themselves stating POST-DATED, highlighted in screaming bright yellow.
- A florescent post-it note placed on the cheques, again indicating the cheques were POST-DATED.
- A letter with the cheques in an envelope, again indicating the cheques were post-dated, and listing the amounts, cheque numbers and dates of each cheque, with explicit instructions not to deposit the cheques until their date arrives.
- A note on the envelope itself: POST-DATED CHEQUES ENCLOSED!
Overkill? Most probably. Would it have avoided the user error? Most probably. In documentation, assume the user will err, and use all your communicative powers to prevent it.