RE: Microsoft Manual of Style questions

Subject: RE: Microsoft Manual of Style questions
From: "Rochelle McAndrews" <rmcandrews -at- csiu -dot- org>
To: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>, "Jodie Gilmore" <jgilmor -at- pacifier -dot- com>, <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2010 09:26:32 -0400

MMOS version 3.0 includes the terms "drop-down" and "e-mail" like this:
drop-down (adj)
Use only if necessary to describe how an item such as a menu works or
what it looks like. Acceptable in technical documentation if necessary
to describe the type of item, as in drop-down arrow, drop-down combo
box, or drop-down list box.
e-mail (adj, n)
Okay to use to refer to an electronic mail program, as in "check your
e-mail for messages," but use e-mail messages, or just messages or
notes, to refer to pieces of e-mail. Do not use e-mails.

Avoid as a verb, as in "e-mail the file." Instead use send or send in

Maintain the hyphenation to show the meaning of "electronic mail" and to
be consistent with terms such as "e-commerce." Use E-mail at the
beginning of a sentence and in headings.
-----Original Message-----
From: Combs, Richard [mailto:richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, April 21, 2010 10:43 PM
To: 'Jodie Gilmore'; TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: Microsoft Manual of Style questions

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
> 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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