accuracy & phrasing in documentation

Subject: accuracy & phrasing in documentation
From: Gary Beason <bubba -at- EXPERT -dot- CC -dot- PURDUE -dot- EDU>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1993 02:34:48 EST

My question is related to the recent discussion about terms like "PC
computer." When should technical accuracy be sacrificed (if that is
the appropriate word choice) for the sake of users' understanding,
particularly if the product has a varied consumer market?

In some instances, particularly with "new" technology, I can see the
point of using accurate terms to educate the audience. But with some
products, a technically inaccurate terminology may be more

For example, although "mhz" and "frequency" accurately denote what we
dial to get radio stations, these terms seem to confuse some users,
who might use "band" or, more often, "stations." (I see similar
problems when writers use the term "chapter" to refer to a track on a

Going back to the phrase "PC computer," I can see the need to be
redundant, namely because PC is a designation in and of itself (i.e.,
"PC" is not seen as an abbreviation but as a term itself). "PC" has
some strong associations with IBM computers; many see it in contrast
to the Macs. I find that "DOS" machines is problematic since not many
folks who use IBM/clones even really understand what DOS is,
especially those who primarily who work in a windows environment.

So that I don't focus the discussion on this one phrase, the question
is to what extent should documentation attempt to educate the users of
technical accuracies? (I know there's no definite answer to this, but
I'm interested in hearing some of the situations and decisions made.)

--Gary Beason
---Purdue University
----bubba -at- mace -dot- cc -dot- purdue -dot- edu

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