5. Mechanics of Writing

Usage of Common Terms in Computer Documentation

The computer industry has created new terms, given new meanings to existing terms, and established capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and syntax guidelines for terms. Table 5-2 lists some troublesome computer terminology and provides usage guidelines for these terms. Also refer to Table 6-1 in Chapter 6.

Table 5-2 Usage Guidelines

Word or Phrase        Usage
Allen wrench          Note capitalization.
appendixes            Do not use "appendices."
baud rate             Often incorrectly assumed to indicate the number of bits per 
                      second (bps) transmitted, baud rate actually measures the 
                      number of events, or signal changes, that occur in one second. In 
                      most instances when "baud rate" is used, the correct term is 
                      "bps." (For example, a so-called 9600-baud modem actually 
                      operates at 2400 baud, but it transmits 9600 bits per second, and 
                      thus should correctly be called a 9600-bps modem.) Check your 
                      source material before using the term "baud rate."
Boolean               Note capitalization.
CD-ROM                Use to refer generically to CD-ROM media; for example, "The 
                      software comes on CD-ROM discs." If referring to a specific 
                      compact disc for installation or other purposes, "CD" is 
                      acceptable; for example, "Put the CD into the caddy." Add the 
                      adjective "audio" if referring to CD-ROM media that contain 
                      wholly or mostly music.
CD-ROM drive          Do not say "CD drive" or "CD player." If a drive will only play 
                      audio CDs, refer to it as an "audio CD-ROM drive."
disc                  Use for optical discs.
disk                  Use for any disk other than an optical disc.
diskette              State the size (3.5 or 5.25 inches), and don't use the modifier 

email                 [added by Lee] lowercase "e" and no hyphen, as recommended in
                      "Wired Style: Principles of English Usage in the Digital Age."
Ethernet              Note capitalization.
indexes               Do not use "indices."
input                 Use as a noun only, not as a verb.
interface             Use as a noun or modifier, not as a verb.
internet              Use lowercase when referring to a collection of networks that 
                      function as a single large virtual network.
Internet              Use an initial capital when referring to a large internet 
                      comprising large national backbone nets and various regional 
                      and local networks worldwide. The Internet uses the Internet 
                      Protocol suite.
output                Use as a noun only, not as a verb.
Phillips screwdriver  Note capitalization and spelling.
press                 Use to indicate the action of pressing a key that does not echo 
                      to the screen; the Control key is one such example. 
type                  Use to indicate the entering of information: "Type the following 
UNIX                  Note capitalization.