RE: Prompt as ask

Subject: RE: Prompt as ask
From: Mike Stockman <stockman -at- jagunet -dot- com>
To: "Janet Valade" <janetv -at- systech -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Sep 1999 17:54:01 -0400

On 09/14/1999 2:51 PM, Janet Valade (janetv -at- systech -dot- com) wrote:

> In other words, yes, I use *prompt* as a verb all the time. "The
>system will prompt you to enter your name." I think its more accurate than
>*ask* and keeps the computer in proper perspective as a machine, not a buddy
>who wants to get to know us better.

In my experience both in teaching computing classes and in discussing doc
with end users, I've found that users will treat computers as another
thinking creature no matter how we, as the writers, feel about it.
Comments like "What does this thing want from me now?" and "It seemed
happy with the data I entered" were common, whether I was using
person-verbs ("ask") or inanimate object-verbs ("prompt") in my

In other words, users will bring their own preconceptions and approaches
to computers no matter what we decide our personal styles should be. If
"ask" sounds better to you, and you can run your doc by some actual users
who don't seem to mind it, go ahead and say "ask." Personally, I prefer
"ask" because it's familiar to the users already, and "prompt" is
unnecessarily distancing, but I don't think "prompt" is wrong. The
program needs some information from the user at that point in time, and
it indicates that on screen, whether it's asking or prompting. "Prompt"
just isn't my preference.


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