Re: Choosing a menu option

Subject: Re: Choosing a menu option
From: "Ridder, Fred" <F -dot- Ridder -at- DIALOGIC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 15 Aug 1997 13:11:36 -0400

David M Girardot (dmgirard -at- cornetltd -dot- com) wrote:

I think that standardization can go a bit too far. If you
micro-manage style, like anything else, you end up with a lot of
busywork that IMHO is often not worth the paper it's printed on. A
friend works at a shop where the lead editior does this. Each week
he comes out with a list of pronouncements like "From now on we will
write 'click the OK button' instead of 'click OK.'" What a waste of

This is not an example of the evils of standardization, but of the lack
of consistency in standards. The point is that the user should not
be kept guessing whether the differences in terminology across the
parts of a documentation set or between different editions of a given
document are significant or whether they are "merely a matter of
style". If you set a standard, stick to it unless there is a compelling
reason to change the standard. This is why a good style guide is
important; it sets a stable baseline usage that will not be changes

Microsoft says "From the File menu, choose New" which is what I used
until I went to "Open the File menu and choose New" which makes
more sense to me and the users I talk to. (to which I talk?)

Good motivation, but not necessarily the best choice of words
because it's contrary to "standard" Windows GUI terminology.
I don't have any of my references at hand (I'm taking a personal
day today) but I believe that "open" is supposed to be used only
with GUI entities that have a higher level of autonomous existence
than menus, such as windows and dialogs. A menu can be
"pulled down", but it cannot be moved or resized, nor does the
menu continue to be displayed if the cursor is moved outside
the confines of the menu, all of which are common characteristics
of entities that can be "opened". IOW, my vote would be for
"Pull down the File menu and choose New" if you want an
alternative to the MSMS standard usage.

And just to pick a nit, I'd avoid "to which" in relation to thinking
beings (a class which presumably includes your users). Try
"to whom" instead, or don't sweat it about ending a sentence
with a preposition.

Just my opinions...

Fred Ridder (mailto:f -dot- ridder -at- dialogic -dot- com)
Senior Technical Writer
Dialogic Corporation, Parsippany, NJ

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