Re: Chapter Titles in Tech. Documentation

Subject: Re: Chapter Titles in Tech. Documentation
From: "Richard G. Combs" <richard -dot- combs -at- voyanttech -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Aug 2002 10:28:42 -0600

Bruce Byfield wrote:

> johanne -dot- cadorette -at- locusdialog -dot- com wrote:
> > we're finding that this sometimes makes the
> > headings needlessy cumbersome. There are times when the gerund isn't
> > really what's important ("Setting Post-Audiotex Behavior," for example.
> > Who cares about "setting? in this case? It could be any other similar
> > like "determining," "assigning," etc.)
> But, at other times, I've noticed that,when the gerund seems cumbersome
> or unnecessary, it's because the wording has the wrong emphasis - it's
> focused back on the interface or hardware.

Precisely. "Setting Post-Audiotex Behavior" is an example of an "artificial
task." It's focused on the system or software instead of on the goals of the
reader. The purpose of using gerunds is to put the focus on what the reader
can/should do to accomplish a goal, not on the features and functions of the
product. But if you create "artificial tasks" like "Using the Foo window" or
"Changing the Bar settings," you're subverting that purpose and the gerunds
will indeed seem pointless.

Instead of discarding gerunds, find better ones. The reader's goal isn't to
set, determine, assign, or use something. For _what purpose_ would a reader
need to change the Post-Audiotex settings? Answer that question and you'll
find a better gerund: "Improving..." "Reducing..." "Sending..." "Saving..."
"Adding..." "Removing..."

My 0.02.

Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Voyant Technologies, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT voyanttechDOTcom
rgcombs AT freeDASHmarketDOTnet

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