RE: Use of Optional in instructions

Subject: RE: Use of Optional in instructions
From: "Leonard C. Porrello" <Leonard -dot- Porrello -at- SoleraTec -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>, "Lauren" <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 15 Sep 2009 12:13:46 -0700

As Kevin suggests, context is everything (and in several ways). For
steps that are optional or potentially have unwanted consequences, you'd
definitely want to front-load what will happen:

"To erase the entire hard disk, click OK."

On the other hand, where the user is required to take the next step and
the reason for the step is mainly hand-holding, then it's better to
respect the typical user's desire ("Just tell me what I gotta do"):

"Click OK to finish the installation process and close the installation

Apart from giving the user what they must know as efficiently as
possible, an added benefit of this approach is that it breaks up the
monotony that is created when several steps are syntactically identical.


-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
[mailto:techwr-l-bounces+leonard -dot- porrello=soleratec -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- c
om] On Behalf Of McLauchlan, Kevin
Sent: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 11:54 AM
To: Lauren; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Use of Optional in instructions

Lauren opined:

> Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant) wrote:
> > Richard Combs wrote:
> >> RIGHT: "To accomplish X, do A."
> >>
> Ewww...
> >> WRONG: "Do A to accomplish X."
> >>
> I would not write an instruction like this either, but it gets rid of
> the non-committal sound of the "right" option. The instruction for
> accomplishing X should already be in a section for
> accomplishing X, so
> there should not be a need to soften the fact that an action will
> accomplish X. So in the section for accomplishing X the instruction
> should be, "Do A."

I think the above argument holds water for books, but not so much for
Help, where the reader might arrive from anywhere (including an index
entry, a keyword search, or random karma) and not have followed a path
that would le[a]d[e] them to anticipate a particular "accomplishment"
other than the one they already had in their head(s).

Ow. I think I just hurt mine.

- Kevin

Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
Contents, Context IDs, and Index, as well as Doc-To-Help
2009 tips, tricks, and best practices.

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Use of Optional in instructions: From: Bruce Megan (ST-CO/ENG2.2)
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Combs, Richard
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Boudreaux, Madelyn (GE Healthcare, consultant)
Re: Use of Optional in instructions: From: Lauren
RE: Use of Optional in instructions: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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