Re: seeking advice on the best way to phrase an error message

Subject: Re: seeking advice on the best way to phrase an error message
From: "Mike Starr" <mikestarr-techwr-l -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2007 19:39:28 -0500

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----- Original Message -----
From: "Tracy Taylor" <ipsque -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Sent: Thursday, March 29, 2007 6:41 PM
Subject: seeking advice on the best way to phrase an error message

> Hiya -
>
> I'm trying to find the best way to phrase a specific error message in a
> common situation. Basically, the application has a form that the user
> needs to enter, and let's say he or she leaves a field empty - in this
> case, it's Phone Number.
>
> I've read up quite a bit on error messages, and know not to use an
> accusatory tone, to keep them concise, to explain the error and how to
> recover from it. But it seems to me that this very common situation,
> where a user leaves a field empty, someone must have already come up with
> the perfect error message.
>
> Current error message in the app I'm working in is: "Phone Number is
> required and must have a value." It's not the worst way to say it,
> especially for a system generated error message, but I'm wondering if
> there is a better way.
>
> Here's what Amazon said in a similar situation:
> "Important Messages
>
> There is a slight problem with your order. (See below.)
>
>
>
>
> You didn't enter a phone number. Please enter your full phone number
> below."
>
> This isn't bad, but it's very wordy. Also, though the words "slight
> problem" aren't so bad, "You didn't enter a phone number" is a little
> blamey.
>
>
> I was going to suggest "Phone Number is required. Please enter a Phone
> Number." Not the most concise thing in the world, but polite, explains
> the error and what to do about it.
>
> But I was wondering if the group has any better advice? Thanks, Tracy
>
>
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Create HTML or Microsoft Word content and convert to Help file formats or
printed documentation. Features include single source authoring, team authoring,
Web-based technology, and PDF output. http://www.DocToHelp.com/TechwrlList

Now shipping: Help &amp; Manual 4 with RoboHelp(r) import! New editor,
full Unicode support. Create help files, web-based help and PDF in up
to 106 languages with Help &amp; Manual: http://www.helpandmanual.com

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References:
seeking advice on the best way to phrase an error message: From: Tracy Taylor

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