RE: Nitpicky little style question

Subject: RE: Nitpicky little style question
From: "Chinell, David F \(GE Indust, Security\)" <David -dot- Chinell -at- GE -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 11:23:20 -0500


Yes, I think we're in close agreement.

When I turn to the Microsoft Manual of Style, it's so that I can see what Microsoft does, and thus what my readers will likely have experienced. This is because my readers *must* have experienced the Windows operating system, and will have a high probability of having used other Microsoft products. (Our software is offered for MS operating systems only.)

If I were writing for a UNIX product, I'd look at the Sun style guide, or other appropriate guides that show me what my reader will expect.

I agree that there IS often a lag between the evolution of language and published dictionaries and guides. Not every call is a simple one.

Re the original question (about "radio button") I think the MS MoS has actually done an admirable job of evolving and simplifying end-user language. I think this entry from their topic "Keywords and online index entries" expresses the right kind of thinking, i.e. it encourages the indexer to match the reader's experience and expectations.

"Use synonyms liberally, especially terms used in competitors' products or terms
some users are likely to know: option and radio button, for example. Provide a
cross-reference to the term that you are actually using."

Here's their entry on option buttons from their "Usage Dictionary."

"Radio button is a problem term for the worldwide audience. Do not use radio button except
in content for software developers in which the application programming interface
includes the term. In that case, refer to the button as an option button, "also known as a
radio button." Include radio button in the index with a cross-reference to option button."

Finally, their topic "Dialog boxes and property sheets" in Chapter 1 "Documenting the user interface" has this entry opposite the image of radio buttons:

Element name: Option button (avoid radio button)
Definition: Round button used to select one of a group of mutually exclusive options.
Usage: Click Portrait. [Portrait is bolded. It's the name of the option button in the image used as an example.]

All these examples show great reader focus. The also represent the kind of language and usage I find throughout MS products. So I can feel pretty confident that my readers will already have experienced this language -- or will read my language first and subsequently have it "validated" by language they encounter in a MS product.

That's another reason to pay attention to style guides. By doing so you create work that resembles the work of companies respected for their success, the quality of their products, and the professionalism of their writing staff.



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Re: Nitpicky little style question: From: Al Geist

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