It’s really easy for users to know what something is called in the product they are using. They just have to read the documentation…right?
The problem is…how did that name get in the documentation? Is it the right name? As technical writers, we know that sometimes we can ask the marketing department; sometimes we can ask the developers. But when you live in a place where the language of the product is considered the second (or third or fourth or more) language of the people in charge of developing and/or marketing, you come up with interesting results.
A friend told me a story which we used for years as a perfect example of when NOT to trust marketing and/or the product development team. The company had designed and developed a modular product and each module had its own name. There was Pro-this and Pro-that and Pro-something-else.
Next up for the development team was a graphic element that was going to be added. After the meeting, one of the attendees came and told the technical writer that her next job would be to document this new graphic tool. It would be called… Pro-Create.
The problem for many technical writers is that we are documenting something that hasn’t been released, something hopefully unique and game-changing for our company. But there are standards. There are basic terms. Where can you find them?
Dr. Google, of course. However, ultimately, what matters most is not so much what you call it but the consistency of use. Your end-users want to use your product. They have purchased it and the last thing they want to do is have to toss it out and buy something else. They will learn your words, your names. As with most things in technical writing – be consistent.
Some online resources that might help are:
- https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/bb226821(v=vs.85).aspx (Microsoft)
- https://www.ibm.com/developerworks/library/wa-interface/ (IBM)
- https://docs.oracle.com/javase/tutorial/information/glossary.html (Oracle)