Remediation of Propagation Handbook

A propagation handbook on a surface with hand pruners and plant clippings.
Photo credit: Debbie Wolfe

As a digital content writer, creating digital-first information has always been my primary objective. However, I have not always followed through with the best practices on my personal garden blog, which, ironically, was the reason I got started in digital writing.  This week's project and readings inspired me to put my newly acquired knowledge into practice.

The Choice

For my project this week, I chose to remediate a small section of Propagation Handbook: Basic Techniques for Gardeners by Geoff Bryant and post it on my garden blog. This handbook is a respected reference book among experienced home gardeners due to the detailed information on various propagation techniques. The primary discourse community for this book is similar to mine: home gardeners.

The book description on Amazon says the book is an “illustrated guide.” However, there are minimal illustrations in the book, and what pictures are present are simple line drawings. Since I am a visual person, I intended to use the valuable information in the section and use step-by-step photography to illustrate the steps. 

Content Analysis

In the first three paragraphs of Chapter 9 in Propagation Handbook: Basic Techniques for Gardeners, Bryant packs a great deal of information. He is a nurseryman by trade, and his knowledge of horticulture is evident. Surprisingly, his text is straightforward and not filled with horticultural jargon. However, this book is not ideal for novice gardeners because Bryant assumes the reader knows the basics of growing plants. This book is about propagation, not gardening basics.

Planning and Research

I decided to tackle the chapter on propagating stem cuttings, specifically using softwood cuttings, because it’s the easiest propagation method. Before remediating the copy, I polled my discourse community about their opinions about visual elements in online documentation. 

The poll results represents a sampling of my discourse community:

Screenshot of poll results.
Screenshot of poll results/Debbie Wolfe

With the push toward video among social platforms, I was surprised it wasn’t the top choice. However, my discourse community are mostly individuals over 35 (older Millennials and Gen X), so the preference for photos or a mixture of visual assets made sense. Younger Millennials and Gen Z prefer to consume shorter videos over static posts. 

Whether it's photos or videos, visual communication is my primary method of conveying data. This week, I particularly enjoyed reading Chapter 12 of Lannon and Gurak's Technical Communication. The information in that chapter emphasized the importance of visuals in conveying complex information to a wide range of audiences.

Implementation

Since my discourse community preferred photos, I used photos (some with annotations)  to illustrate the actions in the steps. I formatted the post similarly to WIkiHow’s step-by-step tutorials. I also included a table of contents near the top of the post so readers can jump to the desired section. 

In my How To Propagate Softwood Stem Cuttings post, I followed the document design principles outlined in Dr. Gerald Lucas's post,  Art and Science of Design in Technical Writing. I applied basic principles of design in the organization of the content, with a focus on typography and imagery. I also improved the user experience and accessibility by applying annotations to essential photos and adding alternative text to the imagery. 

I plan to apply this format to my existing and future blog posts. 

Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe

Debbie Wolfe is a freelance writer, photographer, and author who has been writing in the home and garden industry for 10 years.
Powder Springs, GA