RE: a question about writing instructions

Subject: RE: a question about writing instructions
From: "Dick Margulis " <margulis -at- mail -dot- fiam -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 15:29:58 -0500


Alan,

I'm mystified by your comment. I avoided saying anything about "field" vs. "text box" (other than rising to Kim's doggerel challenge) because I could not then imagine, nor can I now imagine, how choosing one over the other has any bearing on readability, usability, comprehensibility, or any other attribute of user documentation, as long as you pick one term and stick with it.

If anything, my gut tells me that fewer syllables (field) is better than more syllables (text box). I can see nothing inherent in the phrase "text box" that makes it clearer or more intuitive than "field." If the reader truly does not understand what is meant by whichever of those expressions is used, then the reader needs to look up the term in a glossary or "how to use this book" intro or some other such reference section (diagrams with callouts are good for this sort of thing).

But for some _authority_ to pronounce a word as clear and inoffensive as _field_ to be unacceptable when explaining how to complete a form ... well, as I said, I'm just mystified.

Can you summarize the argument against "field" and in favor of "text box" for me, please? It isn't at all obvious to me that this is in any way analogous to the difference between paragraph-style instructions and list-style instructions; but maybe after you explain it, I'll understand.

Thanks,

Dick

Alan Bucher <bucherino -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:
>
>Beth Agnew wrote:
>>I've seen this sort of thing a number of times in various companies
>>for which I consulted. They just have outdated practices regarding
>>technical communication. You can help bring them into the 21st
>>century by showing them the difference between their current style
>>and what we now recommend for task-based documentation.

[snip]
>
>Ya know, you can copy and paste that exact comment into the "field"
>vs. "text box" discussion!


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