RE: SAQ (seldomly asked questions!): attitude and audience?

Subject: RE: SAQ (seldomly asked questions!): attitude and audience?
From: Kat Nagel <kat_nagel -at- rte -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2001 09:59:56 -0500

The older versions of Eudora used that approach for many of the error
messages. The dialog box had the standard "# followed by cryptic phrase"
message at the top, but followed it with a slightly cynical plain-language

My favorite---clearly written by someone who was thoroughly fed up with a
sparsely-documented Developer Kit---was the error message for a particular
communications glitch. As I recall (my archives are at home), it went
something like this.

Error# Cryptic Phrase
Something happened during transmission and
Eudora couldn't retrieve that message. The
explanation for the error "will be provided
in the next version of FeatureX." Fat lot
of help THAT is!

Personally, I liked that approach FOR THAT SPECIFIC USE. It helped me
manage my own frustration to know that (a) someone actually put some thought
into the error messages, and (b) that someone was as frustrated as I was.

I would not, however, use that degree of informality in a whole manual,
especially for novice users. Some informality, yes, but not that much.


-----Original Message-----
From: Hart, Geoff [mailto:Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA]
Sent: Thursday, March 08, 2001 8:15 AM
Subject: SAQ (seldomly asked questions!): attitude and audience?

Forwarded by a friend, who's currently testing out an alternative e-mail
client for the Mac called "Mulberry":

As well as a FAQ, they have a set of "Seldomly-Asked-Questions" on
their website, which includes the following:

Do you guys speak English, or American?

Answer: We are a company of mixed Anglo-American heritage, and
consequently our running interpretations of the English language
have been noticeably changing over the past few years. We presently
favour, er, favor, US spellings in the user interface of Mulberry
and its documentation, in deference to our current home office, but
in the future will be adding an internationalization/localization
(er, localisation) option at install time for British, US, and
Canadian spellings.

We cannot do anything about the preferred vowels on the Speech
Manager support on the Macintosh version. Ask your local Apple rep.

We would like to go on record publically denying the rumour, er,
rumor, that our Canadian version will add "Eh?" to the end of every
menu item.

techwr-l tie-in: As an audience issue, I love this tongue-in-cheek attitude,
and it would inspire me to have a good look at the software to see whether
it meets my needs, particularly after reading the often painfully dry
approach adopted by Microsoft et al. But I doubt this attitude would be very
effective for corporate clients--which these developers almost certainly
aren't trying to reach. Interesting approach! I'm wondering if anyone who
does write for a mixed (and potentially corporate) audience ever presents
their less crucial information with this kind of "attitude".

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that
English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words;
on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them
unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."-- James D. Nicoll


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October 24-27, 2001 at historic La Fonda in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA.

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