Re: Killer -Reply

Subject: Re: Killer -Reply
From: "Shalanna (Denise) Weeks" <dgweeks -at- SPDMAIL -dot- SPD -dot- DSCCC -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 14:31:58 -0600

> >I think the use of the word "abort" is acceptable because it's
> >what the user expects. "Abort" was a word long before we came up with
> >the term "abortion." If your user expects some other term, or

> Saying that users "expect" the word "abort" is a dangerous assumption.
> How do you know this?

Industry standard terminology. If I want to tell users to press and
release one of the mouse buttons, they expect to read the word "click."
If something's common industry-wide, it means it has been found useful and
descriptive, and thus people "expect" to hear the terminology that has
been standard. Just as with any other specialty, there's a specialized
vocabulary that, to the "invested" crowd, is very precise in the meaning
of each word and what it denotes/connotes. To a techie sitting at a
computer, "abort" connotes NOT "the killing of a life in progress," but
"an error condition that we didn't expect and that is serious enough to be
a show-stopper and to maybe even call customer support about or
re-configure some hardware."

In other words, aborts are special conditions that differ greatly from
stops.

> To most audiences, what's the difference between saying "aborts" and "stops"?

But we're not talking about general audiences, are we? We're talking
about computer users with some level of sophistication beyond the level of
the newspaper-reading crowd (and without all this baggage of political
correctness for the moment.) An "abort" is something that is
service-impairing; the thing dropped back down to Windows out of an
application, or even locked up so that it couldn't be rebooted with the
reset key and had to have power cycled. It's a serious error condition,
the most serious there is short of having the thing melt down into a pile
of chips. "Stops" are just that--points at which the user or operating
system lets the process stop or exit. It would be confusing to say "If
you encounter a stop" rather than "if you encounter an abort." It's
precision at stake. Also, there's the concept of "speaking their
language." You kind of have to forget (for example) that in French, the
word "peter" means "breaking wind," and remember that in Greek (I think),
it means "rock." Aha! The thing I'm thinking of is CONTEXT. In context,
"abort" can't offend people, because it just means a serious error and
is a standard term. If somebody's looking to take offense, you can laugh
at him or her and expose 'em as people just looking for something to
complain about.

> I prefer to take the benign route and offend the
> fewest number of readers possible.

Political correctness at work again. Honestly, if somebody claims to be
offended because I used some word that he or she takes to connote
something-or-another, I just laugh. I'm on to them! <grin> We ought to
let people know that we're not going to sacrifice clarity and simplicity
to their silliness. It's as silly as the man who went through the
newspaper to replace every occurrence of "black" with "African-American,"
and who ended up speaking of "the African-American ink. . . ." and such
like because he mis-applied the rule _out of context._

In the proper context, which I assume is that of a computer users' manual,
you need to use the vocabulary of the users in keeping with the industry
standard. You don't have to jargon something up, but don't be afraid to
use the proper terms for things. Especially when it's a silly issue that
couldn't possibly cause confusion.

(It's like if the phrase "brown shirt" made me apoplectic because I have
relatives hurt by the Nazis, but you were writing up a Penneys catalog
description and needed to denote the tan shirt itself; can't mistake the
denotation of the color of a shirt with the concept of a storm trooper.)

Copyright 1996, Denise G. Weeks (as if this were worth plagiarizing!)
--
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DSC Communications Corporation Internet: dgweeks -at- spd -dot- dsccc -dot- com
(Not a snailmail address) or personal dweeks -at- netcom -dot- com
**** The opinions expressed are not those of DSC Communications, Inc. ****
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