From: Dick Margulis <margulis -at- fiam -dot- net>
To: Isaac Rabinovitch <isaacr -at- mailsnare -dot- net>
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 2004 20:35:27 -0500

Isaac Rabinovitch wrote:

You're missing the point. You're right, lists are clearer than prose descriptions. But that's when you're giving a set of instructions *once*. If you're going to do it twenty times with minor variations, neither lists nor simple prose works.


I've was following this thread up to this point. Now I'm completely mystified by what you are talking about.

If you take the suggested

>> 1. From the Tools menu, choose Options.

>> 2. On the Save tab, select Always Create Backup Copy.

and remove the numbers, you have shorter, more straightforward sentences than the burdensome "standard" forms you so rightly objected to.

In narrative prose, it ought to be possible at some point to assume that the reader has mastered getting to the Save tab of the Options dialog (as you noted earlier, this is not about standalone help procedures, which have to be complete in every instance).

So I don't see the necessity for mindless repetition. If, for example, you want to write a chapter about the options available to the user, you can, somewhere near the beginning of the chapter, explain how to find the Options dialog (a little sidebar would be nice, so the slow learner can flip back to it). You don't need to repeat it ad infinitum.

Or, if you are writing something task-based in which an occasional reference is made to the Options dialog in scattered places throughout the book, you can insert a cross-reference: "On the Custom tab of the Options dialog (see p. 32), ... ."

But I have the feeling I'm still not addressing the need you've identified. I'm not trying to be thick-headed, but perhaps you could explain again what you are after.


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