Re: Reading too much into these terms

Subject: Re: Reading too much into these terms
From: Jonathan Price <jonprice -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 20 Apr 1994 18:40:58 EDT

Sure, we can be too sensitive, and read a lot into these terms. But we are
also writers. If we chose terms like these, surely we'd be aware of the
possibility for misunderstanding, and we'd hear some of the overtones. Just
because some engineers are tone deaf doesn't mean that we have to ignore what
happens in beginning users, particularly, when they have terms like these
thrown in their faces.
When folks say "Well, we should ignore these other meanings, and these
overtones, and concentrate on the real meaning," I think they are being
unrealistic. Of course, to get work done, I do that. And, if a beginner can
figure out the difference between aborting and failing, he or she will choose
the right one. But the hostility implicit in the language remains in the
The point is not that these terms are hard to understand, although that's
true for two out of three, in the phrase, "abort, retry, or fail." The point
is that there's a fair amount of unfriendliness in putting things that way.
I brought this up,originally, in response to a question about politeness.
Sometimes I think part of our job as tech writers is to apologize for the
impoliteness of the program.

--Jonathan Price
Communication Circle
918 La Senda, NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107

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