Re: English and Formality for Tech Docs in Non-North American Markets

Subject: Re: English and Formality for Tech Docs in Non-North American Markets
From: Katharine Woods <kathw -at- FIREFOX -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Tue, 19 Mar 1996 17:55:49 GMT

> Hello All,

> A year or so ago (as a freelancer) I entered the international market =
> discovered that the level of formality considered appropriate for proce=
> and other technical documents appears to vary from country to country.
I've seen the terms "user-friendly" and "user-cozy" bandied about recentl=
y and I was going to start a thread on it but it seems to fit in with wha=
t Candace is asking!

Candace Bamber wrote:

> I was working on a project for a British company, who sent me home to
> rewrite all my procedures in a much more formal construction ("the oper=
> shall turn...") than my original offering ("Turn the..."). On a second
> contract in Britain I asked what was preferred, and they also indicated=
> they preferred the more formal approach.

I'm British and I've worked as tech writer for both British and American =
companies (always based in Britain though). I'm quite surprised by the =
above example since all the *good* British technical writers I know (ok, =
less than 10 but it's a start!) would write "Turn the.." in preference =
the "The operator shall turn".

> I am hoping to hear from TCs who have experience producing documents =
> English for companies and governments outside North America, who can =
> some light on some of the (cultural?) differences in common usage (as
> opposed to grammatical rules) and standards for English, especially rel=
> to procedure writing and the level of formality appropriately used for
> different audiences (end users, system administrators, management, the
> public, etc). We also have questions about using the second person.

However, any Brit I've shown these to dislike these examples from the Rob=
ohelp Version 2.6 User's Manual:

(BTW, I would like point out that, these examples aside, I did find this =
manual very easy to use and very helpful in learning to use the tool and =
I would definitely rate it highly as a manual.)

"I think you'll especially enjoy the expanded File Save As dialog box, =
which affords some exciting productivity for organizing your graphics fil=
es within a Help project."

Objections: the presumption of "enjoyment" and the phrase "exciting produ=
ctivity" is incongruous.

"You'll be doing all the the work from inside Microsoft Word for Windows,=
and since you're already familiar with Microsoft Word, you'll feel right=
at home."

Objections: The colloquial expression "feel right at home".

"...Robohelp hides the details of this file from you, at least until you'=
re curious enough to roll up your shirt sleeves and take a look under the=

Objections: It's "bonnet" to a Brit and the metaphor is unnecessary - =
it's just verbiage. (Besides, I put on my overalls rather than roll up =
up my sleeves when I work on my car. :-))

These kinds of phrases don't make a manual "user-friendly", they irritate=
readers and make them feel patronised by the author.

Katharine Woods
kathw -at- firefox -dot- co -dot- uk

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