But is it mnemonical?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/03/09 03:01 -05:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2007/03/09/1842581.aspx

Regular reader Rosyna asked the other day in a comment to an unrelated post:

What decides the mnemonics used for the various checkboxes? Like Alt+E for "Use smart cursoring" (What is cursoring, is that a word?) But how does it come to take the "e" from "Use"?

Also, "Languages labeled with limited support require additional support." That's a funny phrase.

To answer the first question, cursoring is a word, because English is a productive language and building words is easy. Especially in software documentation and user interfaces. :-)

To answer the second question, there honestly is no clever science to it, though there is process that runs to make sure that there are not duplicates, which usually works. There is not nearly as much time spent trying to be clever or at least smart about the choices usually (there are exceptions for standard UI). Having said this, I am sure I can expect a certain number of people who work on software products to tell me that I am wrong for their product, or pointing out specific localizers who have accomplished something a bit smarter....

Third of all, I agree with Rosyna about the phrase. It is easy to what they meant (since support is limited, just like a BYOB party you may well have to bring your own if you want to get things taken care of properly).

But it reminded me of Mark Liberman's Those who are not authorized are not authorized, with the principal difference being that it seems like it should be easier to construct a proper phrase here since (unlike Mark's phrase) there actually is a separate concept (the notion of some unknown external place where one could go to enhance support).

But then I stopped myself, realizing that the last thing you want to do in the user interface is point out a flaw that neither the software nor the company who makes the software provides a solution for.

That is why this blog is here, after all!

So I realized that the two sentences have something in common (one architected by the language, the other by marketing considerations), and although Mark's phrase is funnier, the phrase in Word helps to more effectively obfuscate the way that the phrase makes its author look foolish. Which maybe makes it a little bit clever, even if it was not clever enough to fool my readers. Folks who, frankly, are a cut above in my opinion!


This post brought to you by Ø (U+00d8, LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH STROKE)

AC on 9 Mar 2007 3:11 AM:

I would change Mark's sentence to "If you are not allowed to be here, GET OUT NOW."

That approach probably wouldn't work for a software product.

David Candy on 9 Mar 2007 6:07 AM:

According to some MS docs (from 3.1 era) all references to UI elements in documentation should show it as title case (not real title case but every word initial letter capitalised). This means you can't copy from the OS, as OS guidelines forbid title case, but have to edit the string.

So there!!!!!

So Regular reader Rosyna is not using case correctly.

Michael S. Kaplan on 9 Mar 2007 12:15 PM:

Things have changed a lot in the UI since the Windows 3.1 era, no haven't they? :-)

Rosyna on 10 Mar 2007 12:44 AM:

But still, what is smart cursoring...?

Whenever I look at a UI I immediately think, "How easy would this be to describe to someone over the phone?" and then, "Now, how easy is it to make the person do the actions over the phone if it was a one time thing and they never had to redo the actions?"

When I was looking at that Word options window, I was pondering the second question.

"Well, I could tell the user to do what Michael Kaplan said and start out with describing how to drill down to Office Button | Word Options | Advanced | Editing Options.

Ok, hmm, there are a lot of options in this dialog. A lot of them use various forms of the same words, like type, overtype. Style is used a bunch, as is the word formatting.

It's going to be hard to list all of these and hope the user doesn't accidently click the wrong one.

Ok, I'll just tell them to hit Alt+Y. Seems reasonable enough for a one time action.

But what if the person I'm talking to over the phone is using a different UI language.."

And of course, I've intentionally designed UIs that are impossible to describe over the phone or over email without the use of screenshots. Just to satiate my own sick sense of amusement.

Also, thanks for the followup.

David Candy, I enjoy Arbitrarily using Case when I feel like It. It's also much more fun when your Default font is a font that's entirely smallcaps and you can't tell the Difference.

Michael S. Kaplan on 10 Mar 2007 3:24 AM:

Of course, most of that is an entirely separate issue -- and that is whether the new Office UI is intuitive or not. :-)

I'll probably have to share my thoughts on that at some point, I suppose....

Dean Harding on 10 Mar 2007 9:34 AM:

Randomly upper-casing the First letter of Some words make You sound like some Ye Olde Manuscript. Juste got to Starte throwing in a Few extra Es and ſome long ſes and You're all Sete!

Erzengel on 12 Mar 2007 7:39 AM:

In response to Mark Liberman's article:

"Err, Sarge, that's the beauty of 'Authorized Personel Only'. It's 'Authorized Personel Only May Enter'. 'may' means authorized. Rather than be redundant, we drop the redundancy. ... Although what you should say is 'Entering this facility without authorization from the C.O. will result in jail time and a fine.'"

Usually these sorts of weird writings come from not really thinking things through. Perhaps the funny phrase should be rewritten: "Languages with limited support may not display correctly without supplementary support" Or perhaps as I've seen written: "Limited support means just that; additional support is required."

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