Re: Poll: How do you differentiate commands, etc. in text?

Subject: Re: Poll: How do you differentiate commands, etc. in text?
From: "Bryan Sherman" <bsherm -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 17:58:08 -0400

Ouch... Geoff AND Dick both recommending against my preferred
method... what a depressing day. And Dick even quotes Tufte in

At least they provide advice I can totally endorse "there's no
unequivocal 'best practice'" and "Less is more".

I've always thought simple bolding of commands and window titles was a
less is more approach. I don't like using upper and lower case to
distinguish options because it often has the effect of changing the
case of the item as it appears on screen. I am uncomfortable referring
to "Number of copies" field on the screen as "Number of Copies" since
that is not how it appears on screen to the user.

I understand the ransom not effect, but I have always thought it aids
the user. It allows them to quickly scan the text to see what they
need from the steps. Even if it does not seem as aesthetically
pleasing to folks, I think it helps clarify the steps.

Using styles is a great tip, and allows you to fine tune it. I'm an
itinerant tech writer, so the ability to make subtle, or not so subtle
changes, on the whim of the client is important. As always consistency
is way more important then "right" and "wrong" here, imho.

So, now what do I do with my WWGHD and WWDMD wristbands... is it Friday yet?


On 6/28/06, Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca> wrote:

That's because there's no unequivocal "best practice". Many options
work equally well; there may be "statistically significant"
differences, but I haven't yet seen any evidence that there are
_practically significant_ (i.e., meaningful) differences.

I use words combined with quotation marks where necessary. For example:
Open the Menu menu and click the Button button. Then enter your name in
the "Name" field.

I'm skeptical about boldface because with enough commands, the printed
page starts to look like your pen was blobbing ink, and the help topic
looks like the monitor is misbehaving. You'll often see typographers
refer to this as "the ransom note syndrome" because the text looks
pasted together. The bold stands out enough that it attracts too much
attention, and that's rarely a good thing. Italics has been a
traditional solution in print because it stands out less, but does
differ enough from its surroundings that it achieves the goal of

On 6/28/06, Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net> wrote:
Less is more. The simpler you can make the styling, the clearer it will
be to the reader and the less likely you and your coworkers will screw
up in implementing the style.

I use--and recommend--caps and lowercase to name things. Period. Press
Enter. Type your name in the Name field. The Customer Account window
opens. Click the New Address button. Etc. (Those are not meant to
constitute a sequence of steps; they're unrelated examples.)

I've suggested before, and apparently convinced a few people that it
makes sense, using caps and lowercase when referring in documentation to
longer UI labels, even if sentence case is used for the labels
themselves. For example, if a Print dialog has a field labeled "Number
of copies," I would refer to it in documentation as the Number of Copies

Using caps this way and avoiding font changes, bolding, italics, etc.,
meets Edward Tufte's criterion of "least perceptible difference" and
serves your purpose well, I think.

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Poll: How do you differentiate commands, etc. in text?: From: Diana Ost
Poll: How do you differentiate commands, etc. in text?: From: Geoff Hart

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