TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Now here's -another- pet peeve of mine (boy I have so many ... ;-) );
Forms (or software) that only have two character 'State' Fields. New South
Wales is abbreviated to three characters (NSW), not two, and we don't have a
'convention' here for that at all (Qld, NSW, Vic, SA, WA, Tas, NT, ACT), and
the Brits tend to use things like 'Lancs' and so on (although I think that's
generally part of their postal code?). I'd complain about postal codes
(they're not 'zip' codes in the wider world either) too but we only use four
number codes here, so they always fit, but I'd be willing to lay a bet on
there's -somewhere- in the world that uses 6 or 7.
Oh, I guess I could add three-number area codes to that too (if that's the
case I always use 612, which includes the country code, that's their problem
if it confuses their data entry or telephonist staff). This will get worse
with the introduction of universal 8 digit phone numbers here over the next
year (so, my number becomes, 61-2-9247-3437 or 02-9247-3437 if you're domestic).
This is even worse on forms that specifically ask 'Country'; obviously they
were thinking that someone somewhere other than the US might fill the form
in - why don't they accomodate the differences in address and phone number
structure from the outset?
If you design these things, please make some effort to internationise them,
-----------END OF QUOTE--------------------
Including an embedded space British Post Codes vary in length from six to
eight (or possibly nine) characters. County names, which are part of the
address, and are NOT part of the post code are abbreviated to things like
Lancs or Herts. Some counties (e.g. Devon, Cornwall) are spelled in full.
The country name can also be a problem. UK (United Kingdom) includes
Northern Ireland, while Great Britain excludes Northern Ireland. If you give
England as an option you'd better also give Scotland, Wales, Northern
Ireland. If you don't you'll annoy some of your users.
I well remember one US computer magazine that provided a subscription form
with a box for each character. There was no way that their Japanese
correspondent could put his address (which they quoted in every issue) on
British phone numbers vary in length and recently added an extra digit.
Ibelieve some German phone numbers include the extension making them 15 or
16 digits long.
Acceptable characters: At one time I had a US bank that regularly sent me
correspondence with a corrupt Post Code. Their software could handle the
Canadian length but only recognised numbers.
There was some merit in making fields as short as possible in the days of
CPM and Apple ][ computers when DBase II and its competitors worked with
fixed-length fields and a 5 meg hard disc was gigantic. Now that we've got
programs that compress the data on our hard discs and some databases even
deal in variable-length fields, I can find no excuse for these tricks.
I'm told that some companies with large data-bases use descendants of the
IBM 360. Again the original 360 frequently ran out of space. Its modern
descendants are usually better endowed.
For all these reasons, and more, I like to know what characters are
permitted in each field and how many.
David (now a Canadian and somewhat out of date on UK practices and