[no subject]

From: Monica Petersen <MONICA -dot- PETERSEN -at- EY -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 1995 14:39:26 -0400


I find that readers often notice a list and jump right into it without close
attention to the exact instructions leading into the list. "Do one of the
following" is skimmed and mashed into "do...following" and the person
launches right in.

I use the example of the old one-page, 20-item test that starts with "Read
all of the instructions below before beginning." The page gives all kinds of
instructions from bland to increasingly silly for 1-19, and the last item
says "Now that you've read everything, just sign your name at the top of
this page and wait for the teacher to collect it." Most students end up
following the listed instructions (stand beside your desk, turn clockwise
three times, and sit down again) and feeling quite foolish. The entire room
breaks into embarrassed laughter as people gradually get to the end and
realize they forgot the overriding instruction to read everything first.

So I like to include clues that the items are optional right in the list.
That way the "or" part of the message gets across even if the leading
sentence gets scant attention. It comes out this way (caps for emphasis):

To create a new file do one of the following:
* Select New from the File menu, OR
* click the New icon in the toolbar, OR
* press Ctrl+N


From: usinet(TECHWRL)
To: PETERMO; Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L
Date: Wednesday, October 18, 1995 8:51PM

George Hayhoe writes:

This method clearly calls out the fact that these are options, not a
series of steps, even if the reader is skimming the document. I don't
think that Brian's original sentence or Steve Evanina's suggestion
does that effectively.

My comment:

To create a new file do one of the following:
* Select New from the File menu
* click the New icon in the toolbar
* press Ctrl+N

Using an economy of words and keeping the readability index low, the
is instructed to "do one of the following." How could this be possibly
misconstrued as a series of steps?

If I wanted the user to perform a series of steps, I would have used a
number list.

steve -dot- evanina -at- sciatl -dot- com

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