Re: What do you assume as basic audience vocabulary?

Subject: Re: What do you assume as basic audience vocabulary?
From: Tom Murrell <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 06:24:30 -0800 (PST)

--- Kim McGarghan <kmcgarghan -at- nssolutions -dot- com> wrote:
> Not sure if I'm confused, complaining, or asking for advice.
>
> We just published our interim technical manual, where we used the
> term "initialize disk" rather than "format disk", especially since
> one of our functions is labeled "Initialize Disk."

One could argue that a disk can be formatted many times, but it can
only be initialized the first time. That said, I'm not sure the fault,
if there be one, is yours. You point out that one of your labelled
functions is 'Initialize Disk.' If indeed this is an operation that can
occur with some regularity on the same disk, then I would argue that
the mistake was made by whoever designed or implemented this
functionality. They should have called it 'Format Disk,' and you are
simply doing your job in accurately reporting what the
system/function/feature/product says it's doing, regardless of whether
it's correctly phrased or not.
>
> A few users have complained that we *should* have called this "format
> disk" instead.

[SNIP]

> But this leads me to ask, what do we assume is basic
> audience vocabulary? Our manual is aimed at the network
> administrator who has at least one year's experience working in a
> Windows environment.
>
> Any ideas? comments?

Ah, user feedback. It's a wonderful thing. <g> It sounds like you know
your intended audience pretty well, and they have told you that the
terminology might be wrong. You need to test this back with the UI
folks. If they agree, they _should_ (but may not) change the
terminology on the interface, while you change the documentation.
However, if they don't change the terminology, I would be reluctant to
change the documentation because to do so would inject uncertainty in
the user's mind. (Do they mean there is another function labelled
'Format Disk', and I just haven't found it? Or do they mean me to use
the 'Initialize Disk' function to format the disk as well?)



=====
Tom Murrell
Lead Technical Writer
Alliance Data Systems
Columbus, Ohio
mailto:trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com
Personal Web Page - http://home.columbus.rr.com/murrell/

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