The Importance of Clear Text

Took my wife out to dinner and while looking through the menu, we noticed a whole bunch of typos on the restaurant menu. I don’t recall seeing any spelling errors, but there were double commas, single and double spacing between ingredient listings, written out numbers like three but also condensed like 2, etc.

The Tech Writer

At Zywave, we have a technical writing department that ensures accuracy and consistency of on-screen text and our help materials. I actually began my career at Zywave as a tech writer and learned so much from the position. At times it may seem like a tedious job, or some outside the department may even have thoughts of its purpose, but I recognize the incredible value they provide. So often people can forget how important the consistency of text can be and the damage it could have on the users’ workflow if there are a lot of mistakes.

Last night I found myself searching the menu attempting to find yet another typo, that I wasn’t actually reading the menu searching for what I wanted to eat. I was so distracted that I had to continue the distraction further, and therefore not accomplish the task.

At one point, my wife said to me “restaurants should just hire us to proofread their menus”, to which I responded “they could bring us in, provide us a free meal, and we just analyze the menu throughout our meal”.

The restaurant we went to was not the first with menu mistakes. In fact, it may not be surprising to hear that nearly every restaurant we visit, we find a typo somewhere in the menu. Perhaps these menus are proofread before printing, but likely not by trained professionals that look for issues and correct them every day. Our human eyes are naturally drawn to mistakes, which is why we see it in human behavior before we recognize anything normal. This tendency easily distracts us from the workflow we’re in, so it’s important to have clear concise text.

Being a good QA tester is not just finding the bugs in functionality, it’s being a fully developed, well rounded analytical thinker who can evaluate all aspects of the product, including text and design, and ensure accuracy and consistency across the product. Training our minds to look for all these things can make us stand out in our work performance, while also having a positive impact on product output.

Next time you’re at a restaurant, see if you can find a mistake, I almost guarantee you will if you look hard enough. Also, here is a comic just for fun, not entirely related, but perhaps what some think the Tech Writer position is about.

Related image

Disclaimer: I have no tech writer review my writing, so it’s entirely ironic and accidental if there is a typo in the above piece.

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