Re: the technical name for the #?

Subject: Re: the technical name for the #?
From: "Cheyne, Andy" <acheyne -at- X-CEL -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Wed, 2 Dec 1998 14:34:39 -0000

I don't want to get hung up about this - and the whole thread has
probably run on for longer than it deserves - but my technical support
example was merely that - an example. It's not difficult to think of
other situations where it's an aid to verbal communication if the
specialised vocabulary is defined beforehand.

Besides, technical support isn't always in the user's own country.
There are two very common scenarios:

- smaller companies tend to have all their support staff at a single
location, providing worldwide support

- larger companies provide 24-hour worldwide support by employing
"follow-the-sun" methods, with several support locations around the
world, and support calls being routed internally to whoever's awake.

But then again, the writer ought to know whether either of these is
the case, and write accordingly.

I agree that if you're sure that an item of terminology is agreed and
understood your audience and everybody that they have to communicate
with then there's no need to explain it. To do so might even appear
patronising. But if you're not sure, consider how much confusion might
be saved by a few words in parentheses!


PS To muddy the waters even more, I've come across several people
(usually, but not exclusively, people who use DOS and Windows a lot)
who call \ "slash" and / "backslash". Now that really CAN cause
hairloss in support engineers! Just goes to show that it can be very
dangerous to take things for granted!


Andy Cheyne email: acheyne -at- x-cel -dot- co -dot- uk
Senior Technical Author telephone: +44 (0)1276 674088
X-CEL Communications Ltd fax: +44 (0)1276 674010

-----Original Message-----
From: Geoff Lane [SMTP:geoff -at- gjctech -dot- force9 -dot- net]
Sent: 02 December 1998 12:36
To: Cheyne, Andy; TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
Subject: Re: the technical name for the #?

In response to Don Timmerman's:
I just had a moment of inspiration and ask if one is writing
procedures that
include the use of the subject symbol, why even bother to give it a
Why not use something like the following.

When finished, press the # key.

Why should the statement be written as,

When finished, press the pound (#) key.

Of course, this method works for only written communication. Verbal
communication is another issue.

Andy Cheyne wrote:
Well, I think you've answered your own question in that last
paragraph, Don. In my experience, you can seldom consider product
manuals in isolation. Just imagine a user, who has learnt all about
the product from the manual, having to make a call to technical

"Hello, I've a problem. My system hangs when I press the... er...
d'you call it? know... that key with the funny symbol..."
[rest snipped]<<

------------[ REPLY SEPARATOR ]---------

I think that Don has a perfectly good approach here. Try reading the
following sentence aloud: "To exit, press #." Chances are that if
British, you said, "To exit, press hash."; if you're American, you
said, "To
exit, press pound." or "To exit, press the number key." Most people
familiar with the #, so why not let them use the name with which

Technical support will be in the user's own country, and will use the
term as the user. Writing "When finished, press the # key" could
(rather than cause) confusion.

Of course, you'd need to know that nearly all of your readers are
with the object before using this approach.


Geoff Lane
Cornwall, UK
geoff -at- gjctech -dot- force9 -dot- net

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