Use the Right Words – It Matters!
|2012/03/18||Posted by CCAdmin under Tips|
Have you ever looked at some instructions and scratched your head for a long time because they didn’t make sense? Have you done this only to find out later that the problem was just that the instructions used the wrong terms which effectively made it gibberish to someone who knew the correct terms (e.g. you)? This is a problem I encountered the other day and it occurred to me that it is not as uncommon as it should be.
A co-worker put together some instructions for performing a task in a software tool that we all use. I needed to perform this task so I picked up the instructions he’d written. I got through the first step or two and by about the third step I could not find the item he described in the software tool. I tried to re-think what he meant and tried some variations that he may have meant,- all to no avail. After a while I threw in the towel and called him for help explaining his instructions.
It turned out that almost every term he used to describe items in the software were identified with the incorrect name. He’d called a menu item a “toolbar”, referenced an item whose name was actually different than what his instruction said, and other such mistakes. Quite honestly, from my point of view, it took my respect for him down a notch. I thought these were pretty common terms, but even if he didn’t know them he should have taken time to figure out the correct terms rather than making some up that were sure to be wrong.
It’s more than a matter of courtesy for those reading what you’re doing – it’s a matter of respect for work and its accuracy. When you are writing something professional, whatever it is, take the time to find and use the correct terms. It’s understandable that whatever you are describing may not be something that’s very familiar, but when one just makes up terms or even worse, randomly uses context-appropriate terms incorrectly, like my co-worker did, it just makes you look clueless .
Think about the ramifications of this if it is in an important document. What if this technique were used for writing a manual script for a test case? Could it cause a test case to fail that may really be passing? Or worse, could a misstep in the script cause the test case to pass when it is really failing? What if that test case was something extremely important, or even life threatening if it failed?
Bottom line – remember the old saying: If you are going to take time to do something, then take the time to do it right.