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re: B.3.1 - Simple and straightforward language

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 20:58:18 -0500
Message-Id: <199902200155.UAA1666050@relay.interim.iamworld.net>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
At 06:17 PM 2/19/99 -0500, eric hansen wrote:
>Perhaps something along this line might be appropriate:
>
>"Use language that is as simple as possible and appropriate for the content 
>of your site. [Priority 1] Avoid idiomatic language, technical jargon, and 
>other unfamiliar vocabulary and expressions when common words or 
>expressions would convey the same meaning. For some specialized content, 
>the language might necessarily remain relatively complex or challenging 
>(e.g., Web-based tests of advanced verbal reasoning skills)."
>
>If I could only say this more ... simply. <smile>

I think we should squarely address the fact that what we have here is a
heightened sensitivity to a general good quality.  Anyhow, from the prince
of pedantic peroration, please consider:

"Use language that is as simple as possible, while appropriate for the
content 
of your site. [Priority 1]

"To reach the widest possible audience, use direct, simple language.  This
is a well known rule in written communication.  For people with some
disabilities, anything short of direct writing can be more than a nuisance,
it can be disastrous.  Conditions ranging from dyslexia to deafness can
make access to written information difficult.  For these people, complex
structure and obscure words can break the thread by which their reading
hangs.  This is the disability-access argument for plain language.  This
consideration applies over and above the fact that once you publish to the
World Wide Web, your audience is a World audience and many of the people on
the Web with your content have a first language different from yours."


>If necessary, the last sentence regarding "specialized content" could 

>appear in the techniques document.
>
>I don't think that it is necessary in the main document to note the 
>difficulty of defining the term "simple." This could be explained in the 
>techniques document. 
>
>The techniques document could explain that the principle of simplicity 
>relates to comprehensibility at various levels (vocabulary, syntax, 
>discourse, etc.) and could provide additional specifics.  
>
>The "Testing" (validation) section might refer to tools such as UNIX 
>Writer's Workbench, which provides several readability measures.
>
>Other Possible Content for the Techniques Document On This Topic
>[Note. An earlier version of this was previously posted.]
>
>Follow these writing suggestions: 
> Strive for clear and accurate headings and link descriptions. Scrutinize 
>every heading, outline, and menu to see if the crucial words mean exactly 
>what is intended, and if there are more common words that would convey the 
>same meaning. 
> State the topic of the sentence or paragraph at the beginning of the 
>sentence or paragraph. 
> Limit each paragraph to one main idea. 
> Avoid idiomatic language, technical jargon, and other unfamiliar 
>vocabulary and expressions. 
> Avoid specialized meanings of familiar vocabulary, unless explanations 
>are provided. 
> Avoid the passive voice. 
> Avoid complex sentence structures. 
> Make link phrases terse and meaningful when read out of context. 
>
>Because people tend to scan rather than read Web pages, the quality of 
>headings is particularly important. Good headings will at least get people 
>to a section that has the information they need. From there they can go to 
>a dictionary or even print out a section and ask for help.
>
>Sun Microsystems' "Writing for the Web" 
>(http://www.sun.com/980713/webwriting/) provide guidelines for improving 
>usability of Web pages.
>
>Spell checkers, grammar checkers, and automated language analysis tools may 
>assist in identifying excessively complex or difficult content within a 
>document. 
>
>Under certain circumstances, limited comprehensibility may be required. For 
>example, in puzzles, riddles, humor, poetry, assessments, and other special 
>content, some obscurity may be necessary to achieve the intended effect. 
>===
>I (Eric Hansen) also like Charles McCathieNevile's comment:
>
>"Examples where the use of the simplest words may not be appropriate
>include poetry, and technical literature which uses specialised terms.
>the practise of providing a gloss (short explanation of meaning), or ruby

>for unfamiliar words is only about one two thousand years older than the
>web, and is still a valuable technique. the HTML element RUBY, or a link
>to a glossary, are two ways of achieveing this."
>-------------
>Original Text
>From: "Wendy A Chisholm" <chisholm@trace.wisc.edu>, on 2/18/99 6:26 PM:
>B.3.1 currently says:
>Use the simplest and most straightforward language that is possible for the
>content of your site. [Priority 2] 
>
>After much discussion, the consensus seems to be that this is a P1 item
>that needs an explanation.  However, I am having trouble providing an
>explanation that doesn't sound like an author can write this one off.
>help!  here's what I have so far:
>
>Use language that is as simple as possible and appropriate for the content
>of your site. [Priority 1]  While it is difficult to define "simple" in a
>way that makes this checkpoint easily demonstrable, ....
>=============================
>Eric G. Hansen, Ph.D.
>Development Scientist
>Educational Testing Service
>ETS 12-R
>Rosedale Road
>Princeton, NJ 08541
>(W) 609-734-5615
>(Fax) 609-734-1090
>E-mail: ehansen@ets.org 
> 
Received on Friday, 19 February 1999 20:55:50 GMT

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