Business Writing

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Syntax Training | Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

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« How to Make Your Writing Flow | Main | Be Nice and Make Less Work for Your Reader »

January 10, 2018



Thanks for pointing out this outrageous example—hopefully this post gets shared with developers tasked with building forms.

As a designer, I would have flagged this kind of error. There are many good examples and best practices to follow. I ask writers to weigh in on form labels and response screens so they can contribute to and learn about how to make it easy. (Instead of hard and confusing.)

Great real-life example.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Barb,

I appreciate your best practices as a designer. You would NEVER have let this language get past you.

The bank card company is also at fault. My coach thought she had a limit of about $20,000 and assumed the charge would never go through. Surprise!


George Raymond

A website normally shows you the total charge when asking you to press Pay. The $62,500 should have been in plain view. But somes sites show the charge, then take you to a page for the entry of your credit card details and show the Pay button there. This is asking for trouble. I imagine that an industry association has developed standards for user interfaces for online payments.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Thanks for your good point, George. My coach stressed when she told the story that after she had typed "250" the total did not appear until she clicked Pay.

As a word person, I focused on the word "amount"--probably to explain how the coach could possibly have gotten into this trouble. You and Barb have pointed out the problem in the site design, which is the really the main issue, isn't it? Whether the word was "amount," "number," or "quantity," she should have been able to review her purchase before paying.


Kristen Hanna

My question -- as a content strategist by profession -- is, what purpose does the field even serve? Asking "how many" of a payment required in full that the user wants to pay is a ludricrous superfluity that had no benefit to the outcome. In fact, it had a very real detriment that created more work for everyone involved. It's not a design or language flaw. To me it's a UX bungle.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Kristen, you are right. It is a UX bungle.

I do think a "how many" field makes sense in some form though. Some parents may have two children going on the trip. A way for them to pay for two should be available. How would you allow for that possibility?

Thanks for stopping by.


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