Technical Writing Tip:
It creates headaches for everyone who
has to document a windowed operating system: How do you describe all of
those menus, especially those that cascade two or three levels? Here are
- List commands in the order the user selects them, such as
"From the Insert menu, select Picture, and then From File."
Or, you can simplify the command by creating a standard notation for
menus, such as "Select Insert > Picture > From File." The problem with instructions like "Use the Copy command in the
Edit menu" is that users have to glance back to see which command you
wanted them to run.
- Give complete
menu paths, such as "From the Windows Start menu, select
Programs, then Accessories, then Calculator." If you say
"Run the Calculator" or "Run the Calculator from the
Accessories menu," users might not know that they have to go to
the Windows Start menu and then the Programs menu first.
- Simplify the description. Terms such as "drop-down,"
"command," and "pop-up" are not necessary. Instead
of "From the Insert drop-down menu, select the Break
command," say "From the Insert menu, select Break."
consistent terminology to describe how
users activate commands from menus. Some organizations choose
"click." Others choose "select." Document your
terminology in your style guide.
- Exercise your role as user advocate. If you have a hard time
explaining how to get to a command, users will probably have a hard
time finding it. Work with developers to cut down the levels of menus
that a user has to drill down and make sure that
commands are clearly labeled and in obvious menus.
Creative Writing Tips
Society of Technical Communication (STC)
Orange County STC