The following check list will help you when you do a language review of a product.
- Is the language consistent in tone and style with the rest of the product?
- Is the text grammatically correct?
- Is the punctuation right?
- Is the text as concise and meaningful as can be?
- Is the casing in the text consistent?
- Do all screen elements (headings, sub headings, instruction text, check box options, labels) follow standard user interface guidelines?
- Can the user complete the task on the screen intuitively? Does he or she need any help? If yes, what assistance can you offer? Is this assistance easily discoverable? That is, does the user know where to look for help?
- Does the workflow of the task (clicks to complete a task) make for a sensible flow?
- Are there confirmation messages to tell the user that he or she has completed a particular task?
- Are there warning messages that alert the user about possible results of actions that he or she is about to take? If there are any actions that the user should NOT do, is that clearly called out?
- Are the error messages helpful? That is, do the error messages give a recommendation to the user as to the next course of action (instead of leaving him or her at a dead end)?
If your product is being translated into different languages, add these translation considerations to your check list – this will help reduce translation costs.
- Use simple sentences.
- Use words that are familiar.
- Use the same word across the interface instead of using synonyms.
- Use the same clause wherever possible.
- Do not use jargon or slang.
- Do not use one word to mean different things.
- Do not use idioms.
Beyond these language-related checks, remember that as a technical writer, you are contributing to the User Experience (Ux) of the product. In this capacity, you can do some basic checks of the user interface.
- Are all the design elements consistent with the rest of the product?
- Is the spacing of the design elements appropriate?
- Is the design and layout of the page pleasing and professional?
- Is the text aligned properly?
I am sure you will feel empowered with these check lists that are by no means exhaustive. Go ahead and make a difference, dear technical writer!
The author is co-founder and Director, Content Development at Steta