TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
* Comments: cc: Technical Writers List <TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu>
* To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L <TECHWR-L -at- OSUVM1 -dot- BITNET>
* This is all very interesting. At a previous job, I finally convinced
* the programmers to use less threatening language when referring
* to errors (fatal, abort, illegal, etc.) I remember attending a
* workshop at the STC conference in New York (I think) on writing
* error messages. One thing that was stressed was making error
* messages less scary.
* I know that 'Abort' is pretty scary to me (especially when there
* is usually no help available when you get that message).
* We changed our error messages to say 'terminated' instead of
* 'abort' and just removed the usage of 'fatal' altogether.
* For example, 'fatal error' became 'system error' (or whatever it
* was). We also added some help into the error message telling the
* user what might have caused the problem and how to fix it (reinput,
* call customer support, etc.)
* It wasn't really a matter of politeness, rather of just removing
* a stress level for the customer when using the product.
* Caryn Rizell
* Tech Writing Contractor
* caryn -at- hpptc44 -dot- rose -dot- hp -dot- com
Hi: One thing more important than any message that pops up (Abort, System
Error, Fatal Error) is the explanation of the message. The screen message is
usually brief; thus, somewhere there has to be a more detailed explanation with
possible options for correction. If this latter is provided, then I don't
really care what you had called it -- I'm only interested at that juncture on
how to get started again. And the faster the better.
But, if there isn't a good explanation of what (possibly) occurred and what
to do, then you've got a very unhappy camper (no matter how PC your message
Regards -- Jim Walsh jimw -at- tennessee -dot- sc -dot- ti -dot- com