RE: Microsoft Manual of Style questions

Subject: RE: Microsoft Manual of Style questions
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: 'Jodie Gilmore' <jgilmor -at- pacifier -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 Apr 2010 19:42:43 -0700

Jodie Gilmore wrote:

> Hi. I do not own a copy of the MS manual of style (shame on me!)
> Would someone be willing to look up two word usages and let me know the
> preferred term?
> a) e-mail or email ?

My 1998 copy recommends "e-mail." But such neologisms tend to lose their hyphen as they become more familiar, and "email" is more common today. As of Office 2007, however, MS is sticking to its guns.

> b) drop-down list or drop-down box ?

Neither, unless you're writing for interface developers or something like that.

MMOS says, "In most documentation, especially for end users, do not differentiate between elements such as drop-down combo boxes, list boxes, and so on."

Their usage example is "In the Item list, click Desktop."

I agree with MS wholeheartedly on this. Too many tech writers obsess about naming all the widgets and doodads in the interface they're documenting. Users don't care what those things are called. They neither know nor care whether something is a drop-down list or a drop-down combo box, or how the two differ. By throwing in these terms, you're just adding to their cognitive load.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Microsoft Manual of Style questions: From: Jodie Gilmore

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