Re: Using a gerund phrase for procedure topic titles

Subject: Re: Using a gerund phrase for procedure topic titles
From: credland -at- lmi -dot- net
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2001 13:27:31 -0800 (PST)

Quoting Chuck Martin <twriter -at- sonic -dot- net>:

> For many years, I've used as the title for procedural topics (in
> online Help) the gerund phase: Creating a New Document, Changing the Modem
> Settings, and so on. But I see in Office 2000, Microsoft seems to have
> changed this (at least in Word). Now I see the simple form of the
> verb: Create a New Document, Change the Modem Settings, etc.
> So I'm wondering: is one or the other better for users to find and
> understand? Does anyone know of any research in this area?

Having just spent a good portion of the last few weeks doing research and
drafting localization guidelines for our group, I actually have the answer to
this question close at hand.

It's a translation/localization issue. Many other languages do not include a
gerund verb form, so a phrase or heading that includes a gerund can be
difficult for a translator or a non-native English speaker to understand.

For example, the gerund phrase "searching the database" can be translated
as "how to search a database" and "database search in progress".

Native English speakers, especially technical writers, generally know which
meaning is intended by the context and by the custom of using gerunds in
headings. Someone from another culture may not know the custom or recognise the
context, and may translate the phrase incorrectly. In some circumstances, this
misunderstanding could lead to frustration and serious errors.

credland -at- lmi -dot- net

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