Re: Imperatives in procedures?

Subject: Re: Imperatives in procedures?
From: Susan W. Gallagher <sgallagher5 -at- cox -dot- net>
To: Jeff Scattini <jeff -dot- scattini -at- gmail -dot- com>,<techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 18:33:07 -0500

The very first time I presented at an annual STC conference,
I shared a session with Michael Hughes, who presented,
"Procedures: The Sacred Cow Blocking the Road?", an excellent
research paper that can be found here:
His research suggests that users will only read what they
feel they need to get going, often only reading the first
three words in a procedure before performing the instruction
and running off to the next task. This paper presents a good
argument for putting the imperatives first, before the

Don't get me wrong, there are some valid reasons for putting
the navigation first, too - especially for newbies.

That said, no part of any procedure should be burried in
superfluous text. Readers become very discouraged when there's
a bunch of text to wade through before they find the essential
instructions. So much so that they frequently give up reading
the docs and turn to some other form of support.

-Sue Gallagher

> From: Jeff Scattini <jeff -dot- scattini -at- gmail -dot- com>
> ...I learned that one should always put the user-imperative at the
> beginning of each step:
> 1. Click Start on the toolbar.
> 2. Select the program you want and double click that program.
> However, one of my product managers wants to bury the imperative in
> surrounding text:
> 1. On the left-hand side of the toolbar, click the Start button.
> 2. You can from there, search for the program that you want and then
> click that program to open it. The program window will then open.
> I have searched the MS Manual of Style...
> I'm trying to get a sense if I'm picking a dumb battle...


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