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Structure Tips Theory WebPoems Workshops Books Articles Lisa Jonathan


Beware overcutting.
On Brevity

Scan On!

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Escher effects force users to consider the context in which information appears, rather than simply taking in the information offered. They force users to analyze particular phrases and sentences. They can prevent users from building a trustworthy mental model of the system.

—Ramey (1989)

Avoid contractions, abbreviations, colons, and semicolons online.

—Galitz (1985)

Original Sentences:

The program reformats data you entered earlier, when not formatting.

You can’t reformat now; you can reformat when you enter report mode.

This ISP provides TCP/IP connections over POTS.

Revised sentences:

The program reformats the data that you entered earlier.

You can’t reformat now. To reformat, you must enter report mode.

This Internet Service Provider provides standard Web connections over traditional phone lines.



The MMX experts expected a surge in chip releases, and their associated APIs, when released, would not occur.

The department requires personnel issue verification forms; standard documents confirm completion of work has not yet occurred.

The GUI reflects we have done much UI testing, as well as input from MIS and CS.

When the object’s message handler learns the parameters, options, or arguments don’t match its criteria, the personnel responsible receiving message turndown revise or cancel the message originally sent.

The mathematicians assumed values for the variables (specifically those for dollar amounts, unit prices, totals, and running totals) should not be specified, or had not been defined.

The engineers maintained the software, which had been written years before using COBOL, was such spaghetti that no one could safely repair it.

The parameters input by the testing team suggested a move toward object-oriented programming, particularly using Java, but perhaps with C++, might be going too far afield from our core C code.



See: Galitz (1985), Horton (1990), Ramey (1989), Waite (1982)

(September 15, 1998)

Other tips on brevity:

Bibliography List of web sites, research articles, and textbooks used to develop the tips.


Copyright 1998 Jonathan and Lisa Price, The Communication Circle
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