Re: Table punctuation

Subject: Re: Table punctuation
From: Janice Gelb <janice -dot- gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 11:48:30 +1000

Nancy Allison wrote:
> Hi, everyone. I have a punctuation question for tables. (I'm typing this in a monospace font; if you use a proportional font, it may be hard to read.)
>
> The table has two columns, labeled:
>
> This field . . . Allows you to . . . .
>
> with entries like
>
> Shoe size Select the clodhopper that's right for YOU!
>
> In these tables, usually there's one cell that contains a complete sentence, so I end up putting a period at the end of every cell in that column.
>
> Unfortunately, the real technical content is incredibly dense and full of financial jargon.
>
> One of the rows is like this:
>
> Clown name - Enter a name for your personal clown, or
> - Leave blank for us to choose one for you.
>
> Only after pain and struggle did I unpick the original run-on sentence into two clearly stated alternatives. I'm proud of my clearly stated definition of the Clown name field! But . . . its formatting is a tad tricky.
>
> All other rows in the second column have a terminal period, so this is the solution I've chosen. I don't think that moving the "or" to a separate line would change anything, do you? I suppose I could put it as:
>
> - Enter a name for your personal clown.
> Or
> - Leave blank for us to choose one for you.
>
> That definitely does not look better to me.
>
> Proving that I can obssess with the best of you -- and looking for help . . .
>

If you're just experimenting with this setup, my
advice would be to avoid presenting the graphical
user interface fields in a table and instead present
the options in a task when the user is likely to
need them. One of the reasons you're finding the
wording and punctuation awkward for the Clown
Name example is that procedural information is
difficult to present in a tabular format. What
you're doing is not actually describing the field
but rather describing how to provide a name for
your clown.

So, for example:

To Establish Your Clown Identity

1. Select your shoe size from the Shoe Size
drop-down menu.

2. Type a name for your clown in the Clown Name
field or leave the field blank to accept the
default clown name.

If you really have to present this information in
a table, our style guide recommends against the use
of ellipsis intros in table headers due to difficulties
with localization, and we'd recommend changing them to
"Field" and "Description".

-- Janice

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Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
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References:
Table punctuation: From: Nancy Allison

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