RE: Readers who don't read

Subject: RE: Readers who don't read
From: Larry Horn <hornlo -at- OKRA -dot- MILLSAPS -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 2 Apr 1993 18:37:52 CST

#From: MaryJean Fitzgibbons <MJFITZG -at- WAYNEST1 -dot- BITNET>

#On Fri, 2 Apr 1993 08:02:23 EST <HOLLAND -at- IPFWCVAX> said:
#>Try telling them:
#> Type A to answer, or D to delete.

#When writing instructions like the above for new users, has anyone _ever_
#had a person TYPE the command and then just wait for something to happen
#--without pressing an ENTER key?

#This has happened to me often with very novice/new users, so I end up
#repeatedly stating something like ...type A and then press the Enter key.

I'm not a technical writer, but a convention I strongly encourage, both
in written and spoken phrases:

You PRESS keys that do something as you press them;
You HOLD DOWN a modifier key, such as <ctrl>, that requires other keys
You TYPE a series of keys (such as filling in a field that auto-terminates);
You ENTER a series of keys that must be followed by pressing return.

For example:

You hold down the <ctrl> key and then press <W> to refresh the screen.
This is usually written as <ctrl/W>, or press <ctrl/W>.

You may press <F1> at any time for help.

You type in your phone number. As you enter the last digit, the cursor
will move to the next field...

Enter your first name. [Type in your first name, then press <return>.]

etc. If you are *consistent* in this usage, I believe your readers will
unconsciously begin to recognize what to do.

What really irks me is software that, with the same phrasing, sometimes
expects a <return> and sometimes doesn't:

Type A to answer or D to delete: [user presses <A> and immediately
[goes into the Answer dialog

Type C to continue or Q to quit: [user presses <C> and waits and waits...
[finally presses <return> to complete
[the command

The first should say "Press", the second should say "Enter".

Sorry to interrupt, but I couldn't resist,
- ---------------------------------- signed: 2-APR-1993 18:36 C*T (USA) --- -
Larry Horn / Millsaps College / Jackson, MS / hornlo -at- okra -dot- millsaps -dot- edu
- -------------------------------------------------------------------------- -

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