Re: Abort, Retry, Fail

Subject: Re: Abort, Retry, Fail
From: Jim Walsh <jimw -at- TENNESSEE -dot- SC -dot- TI -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 18 Apr 1994 17:47:45 CDT

To Mike Pope:

Mike, I admit that there is a mountain of stuff out in Tech World Country that
has been passed down to writers from programmers and engineers that doesn't
make a lot of sense. And that's the thankless job of the tech writer to be
Rodney Dangerfield for a Day and find out what the hey the guy wanted to say.
If I wrote that a software package had a message that said "Abort, Retry,
Fail" and couldn't tell the reader/customer what was meant, then I would bug
the programmer/engineer until he/she would explain it in terms that even I
could understand. Then I would write what this meant. I take for granted that
the reading world is as stupid and inept as I; thus, I have to know what it
means and pass this on.

Unfortuately, there are a few writers still out there that say, "Heck, I didn't
write this stuff, let the next guy clean it up." Sometimes these are called
technical typists (but they don't know that).

An error message is the result of a decision by a program (in this case, I
assume it is MS-DOS) that was fully understood by the programmer. I have run
up on this error, and in several cases I could only reboot the system to get to
a starting place again. WRONG -- the program AS WELL AS the explanation in the
book are both wrong and user/customer unfriendly, and the company that left the
customer dangling should be taken to task for it. The tech writer could/should
have done some unselfish work by demanding that a better explanation be given,
but I guess he/she was ignored or for an other reason the job simply wasn't done
correctly. And because of the indifference or inadequacy of a few, thousands
are frustrated, wondering what the hey the message means, or what did I do wrong
that I will try not to do in the future, or . . . ? (And I know that this
does not solve the problem of the volatile word "abort" -- sorry.)

Am I clear or am I rambling again?? Best -- Jim Walsh (address at bottom)

* *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
* >To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
* >Subject: Re: Abort, Retry, Fail

* I think it's more fundamental than this -- if users have to look up a term
* in a dictionary OR in the documentation before they know what an error
* message is trying to tell them, maybe it's time to think hard about some
* clearer vocabulary. Heck, even WE don't know what the terms mean --
* how can we expect the users to?

* -- Mike Pope
* mikep -at- asymetrix -dot- com

* *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
* >
* >To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
* >Subject: Re: Abort, Retry, Fail
* >Date: Monday, April 18, 1994 8:51AM
* >
* >Hello Out There:
* >Subject: Re: Abort, Retry, Fail
* >
* >Hello Out There:
* >
* >I can't believe that people are looking up "abort" and other terms in the
* >dictionary for an explanation. Isn't it clear that because there's confusion,
* >the company that uses these terms for whatever reason has failed to explain
* >these terms succinctly in written form somewhere? Isn't it clear that their
* >technical writing staff has failed to identify a confusion area and failed
* >to correct this? Every error should have a written definition as well as a
* >solution. I personally like numbered errors and a lookup table giving me all
* >the causes and tests for correction. If the disk operating system has failed
* >in doing this, then I suggest you write them (Microsoft???) instead of (or
* >as well as, since it's fun reading all this stuff) TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- (Hey, don't
* >blame me -- it's Monday morning, and I'm having a gripe attack.)
* >
* >Thanks for listening -- Jim Walsh jimw -at- tennessee -dot- sc -dot- ti -dot- com (tennessee is
for my favorite author)

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