Writing question

Amy Speed speed at PARADIGMTECH.COM
Fri Nov 12 14:28:15 UTC 1999

>For example, a neophyte
>reading "Go to the file open dialog box and press home and then enter"
>could be very confused.  (Go to the file, open the dialog box? Open the
>dialog box and the press? The press home? Press homeward? Enter the box?
>Enter the home?)  So some device to flag the names is desirable, and I
>myself would be inclined to write (in an e-mail, say) "Go to the File
>Open dialog box and press Home and then Enter."

James brings up an interesting case here. While I would write,

| 1. Click File, then click Open. The Open dialog box displays. |
| 2. Press <Home>, then press <Enter>.                                |

the idea is that capitalization is used for clarification. If I were to
write, "Click file, then click open," I feel that could be even more
confusing than the unconventional capitalization. The screen clearly
displays "File" and "Open" as options, so I ought to be writing them as they
are displayed.

The keystroke example I used will vary from company to company. I used < >
because of the lack of options in my email. Some would use bold, italics,
all caps, etc. The most important thing is that the reader understands that
those are keystrokes.

Technical writing often takes conventional English writing rules and twists
them a little bit to fit the software, the company style, or whatnot. I was
mortified to learn that my department uses some punctuation incorrectly.
When I talked to my manager about correcting it, she said that's they way
it's done here, and we will have to continue to do it that way. Arrgghh!!
Talk about an English major's nightmare.


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