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Cultural Differences and User Instructions: Comparisons of 100 Chinese and Western Household Appliances Manuals

Qian Li | Lecture, 2. day

Opinions vary on the influence of cultural differences on technical writing design. My research tried to contribute to this debate with detailed content analysis of 100 Chinese and Western user instructions. Results showed that Chinese manuals are different from Western manuals in several aspects.

Research shows that there are many differences between Western and Chinese documents in structure, style, content, and visual appearance. However, most of conclusions were drawn based on small quantities of sample comparisons. Some studies were conducted dozens years ago; differences might have disappeared and new changes may have emerged now. Therefore, I attempted to systematically explore cultural differences in user instructions in larger quantities. Specifically, we investigate what kinds of differences are shown in user instructions designed recently by Western (from Europe and North America) and Chinese (from the People’s Republic of China) technical writers.

The results of our study verify or doubt previous cultural differences findings, and also raise newly found differences. Those differences are useful to technical writers who are involved in cross-cultural manual design, especially those who design users instructions for Chinese and western countries.