Localization question?

Subject: Localization question?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Roger Bell <RBell -at- vcgsoftware -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 04 May 2006 11:44:35 -0400

Roger Bell wondered: <<For documentation that will be localized from the original American English, which is the better choice?>>

In the context of localization, there should be little difference. Your translator will know that both mean the same thing. However, writing designed for localization should also make sense in the original language, and that's probably the more important issue:

<<The Basic Edit window appears. The Basic Edit window displays.>>

Editors tend to be divided about the merits of these two choices. "Appears" is intransitive, so it's _grammatically_ the better choice, but you'll see detractors point out that it raises the question "appears to do what". On the other hand, "displays" is generally considered transitive, with a few subject-specific exceptions, but is increasingly being used intransitively. So "appears" would be my preference if you've got to use either passive form* of the verb.

* Passive because they're a simple statement of "existence" rather than an active statement of what the reader is doing. Definitely not passive _voice_.

However, in my own writing, I tend to avoid such statements if I think I can get away with it. In many cases, I use them as the introduction that provides context for the real information. For example: "Open the Edit menu and select Basic to display the Basic Edit window. In the tool palette, select the Redactor tool..." I prefer this approach because it starts by saying "here's where to look", followed by "now that I've got you looking in the right place, here's what to do".

The opposite approach also works, and is arguably superior because it focuse on what the reader is trying to accomplish: "To display the Basic Edit window, open the Edit menu and select Basic." You can also replace the infinitive "to display" with an imperative "display". I don't have a strong opinion over which is better, but slightly prefer the latter because it avoids having twenty steps in a row, all of which begin "To..."

Note that "display" now becomes an active verb: it refers to what the reader is doing, not to what the software may or may not be doing. That's a more useful use of the verb imho.

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Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)
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Localization Question: From: Roger Bell

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