Conditional statements in instructions - A translation twist

Subject: Conditional statements in instructions - A translation twist
From: Lori Smith <lasmith -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 00:15:27 -0500

We use two constructs when presenting conditional information.

If there are multiple steps the user could perform, we say, "1. Do one of the
following:" then list the options in a bullet list with a result for each one.

If there are multiple results after an instruction, we list them in a bulleted
list starting with a conditional phrase.

Granted, this has the potential to get complex, but we usually find a way to
work around any rough spots.

I do have a question about all of this. We are starting to write for conversion
to 8 different languages. Are there any special implications for conditional
statements in writing for translation?

Barb Philbrick wrote:

> > 1 - In the case you cite, my fear is that when people see those
> >cautionary statements, they skip over the whole step. With a caution on
> >*everything* including candleholders, who bothers to read them?
> I think if cautionary statements are used judiciously, they would draw
> attention. You're right -- you can't warn about everything. You've got
> to know your audience. As one of my friends once said (specific to her
> product line), "My audience is mechanics. They know that leaving the
> engine on while working on a car is dangerous, so I don't need to tell
> them that. What they need to know about are dangers they might not
> think of, or that are introduced by my company's product."
> My problem with notes or cautions in a procedure is that if they're
> before the step, people might not read them, and if they're after the
> step, it's probably too late.
> > I'm not (or at least I hope I'm not) being merely pigheaded =
> about
> >consistent structure in procedure steps. I'm going on the assumption =
> that,
> >in a manual, you want the reader to get the rhythm/feel of the info you
> >present, which is easier if you make the info subliminally self-evident.
> It's hard to say if you're being pigheaded or logical -- I generally
> agree with your argument for persenting information consistently.
> Unfortunately, I think this is an area that we (technical writers)
> don't have good data on. We could talk all day about which we *prefer*
> -- but which way really keeps our users out of trouble? Are there any
> other people running usability tests that have found one type of
> procedure to be better than another?
> Regards,
> Barb
> Barbara Philbrick, Caslon Services Inc.
> Technical Writing. caslonsvcs -at- ibm -dot- net
> Cleveland, OH

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