Click, Choose, and Select (the hilarious comedy team of)

Subject: Click, Choose, and Select (the hilarious comedy team of)
From: sherron -at- HERRON -dot- CTEXT -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 1996 11:25:54 EST

Salve Populi, again:

BS>Bill Sullivan wrote:
BS>...should we not write "Choose Options" and not "Click Options"?
BS>Tell them what to do, but let them deduce how to do it? Isn't
BS>that what their vanishing system manuals are for?

BG>Bonni Graham replied
BG>...I agree...I tend to prefer "choose" or "select" for the reasons you
BG>mention. HOWEVER, by the same token, if we're expecting them to
BG>be able to look up the options for "choosing", we can also expect
BG>them to be able to look up the fact that there are alternatives to
BG>"clicking",or so I've been told every time I've lost this argument with a client.

At CText, we take this distinction a step further. Here are some
terminological ideas that seem to work for us. In procedures:

- We use "Click" only for things that can be done _only_ with the mouse
(there are a few).

- "Choose/choice" is something (that) you do in your head.

- "Select/selection" is something (which) you do with the s/w.

Verbs are huge problem with s/w manuals. There's godzillions of words that
already mean something, so we've tried to define exactly what a small set of
them will mean in all manuals.

We have found that we save a lot of hassle by establishing this early. So, in
addition to a "Manual Conventions" section in Chapter One (which is never,
NEVER named _Getting_Started_) we have a boilerplate Chapter Two,
_How_to_Use_a Graphical_User_Interface_. It's about 20 pages long, and it goes
into every manual.

Readers new to the GUI environment (like Kelly Tempps, data entry operator)
can learn every option of screen object manipulation and the terms the manual
will use to describe it, for example, the fact that "select" means "click on
it" OR "use the indicated hotkey" OR "tab/arrow to it" OR [whatever options the
particular UIF offers.]

Experienced GUI users (like R. F. Burns, Chief Engineer) can skip CH2
completely. They will not be confused by terminology.

Rusty or occasional users (like Hiram N. Phyrum, Dir. HR.) can refer to CH2 as

Additional terminological conventions that work for us:

- We don't "perform" functions or "carry out" tasks, we DO things.
Even better, we just use the specific name of the task (SAVE, MOVE, SEARCH,

- We never "hit," "strike," "mash," or "depress" keys. We PRESS them.

- We TYPE text. "Enter" is the name of a key.

Once you nail down these things, you hardly need think of them again. Doing
the drudge work of establishing these terminological formats in advance
leaves you free to be a bit more creative in the fun areas of technical
writing, such as putting the user in the picture and creating useable dummy
data for examples.

I'll let you know if we ever figure out a good replacement for DIAL the phone.
I suspect we'll all be "dialing" pushbuttons well into the 21 century (which
starts January 1st, 2001).

Thanks to everyone who responded to my DOS screen shot question.

I'm starting to get repeat solutions, so I guess I now have every available
solution. I'll compile this stuff and post a summary a bit later.

Scott Herron
Senior Documentation Specialist
CText, Inc.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
sherron -at- ctext -dot- com

Write clearly: Help stamp out "emoticons" today.

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