Style conventions: pipelines vs. arrows, single step style vs. se ntence?

Subject: Style conventions: pipelines vs. arrows, single step style vs. se ntence?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 12 Aug 2002 08:42:41 -0400

Colleen Carey wondered about preferences for: <<File|Save or File>Save>>

I don't do either, actually. I prefer "open the file menu and select save"
or similar wording. Why? It's longer, but it's entirely unequivocal for any
reader. You can certainly use a "how we write things" section of the manual
to teach readers about the arrows (in which case use a real arrow or at
least --> rather than just >), but most readers will never see see this
section. The first time they open the manual will be midway along, when
they're in trouble, and then some of them won't know what you're talking
about. I'd avoid the pipe | because that symbol has a special meaning in
some programming languages and operating systems, and might confuse the
occasional power user.

<<when you have a single step, do you place it in a list all by itself to
set it apart from the introductory information, or do you include it with
the introductory information in one sentence?>>

There's no need to put a single-step instruction in a numbered list. Numbers
are intended to help readers follow a sequence, and with only one number,
that's hardly necessary.

--Geoff Hart, geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada
580 boul. St-Jean
Pointe-Claire, Que., H9R 3J9 Canada
"User's advocate" online monthly at
"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can
think."--Edwin Schlossberg, designer (1945- )

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