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.
Subject:thoughts on color From:"Laura J. Lockhart" <LLOCKHART -at- ABIM -dot- ORG> Date:Wed, 30 Dec 1998 10:17:58 -0500
On Tue, 29 Dec 1998 11:45:54, Gil Yaker wrote:
>Just because someone is drawn to a color document, even if the information is conveyed just as effectively as black and white, should we use color when it's not necessary?
It seems as though the color printer is no different from any other technology that has become available to the masses... people are excited to use it even when they have no clue how to use it most effectively. That's not intended as a slam to anyone... it's just a fact.
I think Gil answered his own question when he asked if color should be used "when it's not necessary." Unless a document contains graphical objects or photos, color should be used sparingly, if at all. In particular, arbitrary use of color conveys no meaning to the reader whatsoever. What does green text mean? The author is envious of the reader? :) Boldface and italics are more effective for conveying emphasis. Perhaps the best exception would be within manuals where the writer is trying to point out certain hazards or warnings.... bright red text, perhaps accompanied by an international symbol for danger, will jump out. Provided, of course, there isn't blue and purple text right next to it.
Just another quick note on the color subject... if you're writing for an international audience, you also need to consider the connotations that certain colors have in foreign countries. Red doesn't mean hot and blue doesn't mean cold to everyone. As always, it comes down to knowing your audience!