Re: Appropriate -- so inappropriate!

Subject: Re: Appropriate -- so inappropriate!
From: Michael West <WestM -at- ap -dot- aurecongroup -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2009 16:37:40 +1000

> From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>

> I think it is exactly an issue of reading comprehension.
> In a lowest common denominator environment, if you say
> "choose the colors for your screen," I would bet real
> money that someone will ask "how do I know which colors
> I should choose?"

And you'd win the bet because "Choose the colors for your screen" is not a
clear instruction, although it is certainly possible to argue that it is
"clear enough" for a given audience in a given situation.

It isn't clear because it doesn't specify the relation between choosing
and the outcome.

Another common variant is "Choose the colors that your screen will be."
Huh? I'm supposed to predict? Do I get a clue? What do I win if I guess

It's weak syntax. Technical writers are supposed to know better. Clear
writing isn't just about being understood. It's about removing any
possiblilty of being misunderstood.

Regarding the original post -- yes, "appropriate" is an empty filler that
should be avoided unless accompanied by a reference or hyperlink to
specific criteria the user can apply to determine what is or is not

"Relevant" is another one, as in "Choose the relevant account type".
"Appropriate" and "relevant" are earmarks of writing done by people who
think it's important to sound "technical" irrespective of making sense.
And so is blaming any misunderstandings upon our readers' "stupidity"
rather than our own ambiguous syntax.

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