Monthly Archives: March 2014

Stand in the Gap: Translating Product Feature Names into User Tasks

I haven’t always known about plain language. Before I began studying it, I wrote as clearly and concisely as I could, but I missed an important principle: Translating product features into user tasks. Here’s what I mean: The other day, when editing a help file, I came across a topic I’d titled, “Using Pay Invoices Online.” Clear enough, yes? Sort of. Because the feature is aptly described, users can figure out that, using this feature, they can pay their invoices online. But what if I titled the topic, “Paying Invoices Online”? Users could then omit the mental step of figuring out if that feature will help them complete their task. …

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The Language Link

I’ve worked in technical communication for almost two decades. I’ve written user guides, online help, newsletters, tutorials, reference guides, API specifications, and user interface text. I’ve written the documentation for tax software, task-management software, science-lab hardware, and system-to-system technology used by the mortgage industry. I’ve even written humor columns and articles about technical communication. My favorite aspect of technical communication is its diversity. To produce useful documentation, we as technical writers must know our products and their underlying technology, our users’ goals, our users’ industry, our tools, and our subject matter experts’ temperaments. We have to know our way through a project, and we have to know our way around …

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Jargon Jive: Check out my latest post on the STC’s blog Notebook

http://notebook.stc.org/plainly-speaking-jargon-jive/

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