Consistancy (was RE: Single-step procedures)

Subject: Consistancy (was RE: Single-step procedures)
From: "Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 1997 11:28:17 -0500

Put yourself in the position of a reader.

If I were reading a procedure that had a Step 1, I'd look for Step 2.
Probably turn the page at the very least. Possibly even call tech
support to get my defective documentation replaced, if it's not real
obvious that there is no Step 2. In any case, the lone '1' would break
my flow, so that I'm not thinking about getting my task completed, but
about the document. This is very bad.

Consistency is a good thing because it makes life easier for the reader.
It is a means, not an end. A servant, not a master. When consistency
works against it's own purpose, which is most important?

In this case, though, it's a question of which rule you are going to be
consistent in applying: the rule that procedures are always made up of
steps, or the rule that number 1 implies that it is the first in a
non-singular series?

Often, reviewers apply kind of bogus rules in the name of "consistency."
One I run into rather frequently is capitalization. I follow normal
English rules when a word represents a concept. But when the same word
is a quotation of a user-interface element, I capitalize it as it
appears in the interface. And rather often get the results marked
"inconsistent," and then I talk to the reviewer.

Personally, I don't even use even a bullet for a single step. When a
task is a single step, I just say it as in:

"To whiffle the blarf, click whiffle."

Unless the company style guide says otherwise.

Mike Huber
mike -dot- huber -at- software -dot- rockwell -dot- com

>-----Original Message-----
>From: Christopher Knight [SMTP:knight -at- ADA -dot- COM]
>Sent: Thursday, July 31, 1997 6:41 PM
>Subject: Single-step procedures
>Further to the posting earlier about numbers-for-steps and
>bullets-for-lists, my practice is to use a bullet for a procedure
>with only one step. A reviewer has just asked me to change this
>to a number 1 "for consistency". I figure a number 1 implies
>more than one step. What do you-all think?

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