Alternative to typo? (take II)

Subject: Alternative to typo? (take II)
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: Technical Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Milan Davidovic <milan -dot- lists -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 10:04:15 -0400

Milan Davidovic wondered: <<Let's say, for whatever reason, that you
*can't* get an unequivocal statement of when the typo will cause the
behaviour. Would you still avoid the "may" statement?>>

That's clearly a design flaw in most cases. There are some systems in
which engineers really, for no fault of their own, can't predict the
system's behavior with absolute certainty. That's far less common for
mechanical devices than for software, but these things exist. In such
cases, you must report the possibility rather than erroneously trying
to give a sense of certainty, and using "may" is the correct way to do

But the rest of my original response remains valid: it's ethical (not
to mention good business sense) to explain the problem to the
designers so they can try to minimize or eliminate its impact on
eventual users, and you still have to try to find some way to help
users recover from the problem.

For example, some TVs don't support progressive-scan mode from some
models of DVD player, and if you inadvertently select that mode, it
can be a nightmare trying to reset the DVD correctly -- because you
can't see the settings on your TV that would allow you to navigate the
menus and choose the old display setting. Smart designers display a
message that says "press the OK button to confirm that you can see the
new progressive scan mode; if not, we'll reset it to a mode that you
can see in 15 seconds". Sadly, there appear to be fewer such designers
than one might hope.

Geoff Hart (
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:

alternative to typo: From: Joel
Alternative to typo?: From: Geoff Hart
Re: Alternative to typo?: From: Milan Davidovic

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