Re: What do you call this?

Subject: Re: What do you call this?
From: Laurie Rubin <lmr -at- SYL -dot- NJ -dot- NEC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 11 May 1995 08:54:15 -0400

I agree! I always use the "common" name of the special character followed
by the actual character in parentheses. If they can't understand the name,
they'll recognize the character, and if they can't recognize the character,
maybe they'll figure it out from the name. And who uses octothorpe or virgule
-- they sound like medical names!!
> >Avoid the fancy name, if there is one. I have been
> >completely perplexed by instructions for a telephone
> >that told me to press the octothorpe button.
> >
> >Or have you ever been told to enter a virgule?
> >
> >Octothorpe =3D pound key (#)
> >Virgule =3D forward slask (/)
> >Doug Fettig
> >fettig -at- ifu -dot- net
> >

> Your message prompted me to look "virgule" up in the dictionary. In French,=
> =20
> "virgule" means "comma", so if I was instructed to enter a virgule, I'd=20
> probably type the wrong character. (I'm an Anglo in Quebec, so I suppose=20
> this mis-interpretation would be more common here.) In any case, when=20
> instructions give the word for the symbol, like "tilde", say, I think they=
> =20
> should *also* indicate the character in brackets, like (~).=20

> But I agree with you completely, as tech writers needing to communicate=20
> clearly, we should avoid the nine-dollar words for the ones the reader is=20
> more likely to already know (or won't be confused by). A few years ago, I=
> =20
> didn't know that your "octothorpe" symbol (#) was also called the "pound=20
> sign" (I always called it a "hash sign"). I wondered why it was called=20
> that, and now I have a conjecture that it might be because on the British=20
> keyboard, the <shift-3> character is in fact the "=A3" symbol for British=20
> stirling pound. On our US-layout keyboards, <shift-3> is the "#" symbol (I=
> =20
> still prefer calling it a hash).

> On a tangent to this, I was thinking it might be an interesting new thread=
> =20
> if we shared anecdotes about readers' mis-interpretation of our writing. =20
> I'll give an example of one I had. When closing or quitting an application,=
> =20
> the software I was documenting presented the user with an "Are You Done?"=20
> dialog box. My text explained that "... this is to prevent the user from=20
> accidentally exiting the program." Someone came back to me objecting about=
> =20
> the use of the word "accidentally" in the sentence, since [apparently] most=
> =20
> people associate an "accident" with some sort of physical catastrophe, like=
> =20
> the screen exploding, or [worse] corrupting the system or something. I felt=
> =20
> it was a bit of a ridiculous assumption to make, but nonetheless replaced=20
> "accidentally" with "inadvertently" (which satisfied the other person). =20
> Frankly, I think that anyone who would have a problem with "accidentally"=20
> would probably be running for the dictionary if they read "inadvertently". =
> =20
> In the end, I think I settled for "unintentionally" (still high-falutin',=20
> but better). Still, this silly little incident has given me pause for=20
> thought every now and then, especially when I wonder if something I've=20
> written might not be read in the way I wrote it.

> Does anyone else have any anecdotes about people seriously mis-reading=20
> something that should have been pretty clear?

> Cheers!
> Marta

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