Be concise

Write concise error messages. Emphasize what's important. Cut unnecessary text. See the Short sentences unit of Tech Writing One for tips on reducing sentence length.

Not recommended

Unable to establish connection to the SQL database. [Explanation of how to fix the issue.]

Recommended

Can't connect to the SQL database. [Explanation of how to fix the issue.]

Not recommended

The resource was not found and cannot be differentiated. What you selected doesn't exist in the cluster. [Explanation of how to find valid resources in the cluster.]

Recommended

Resource <name> isn't in cluster <name>. [Explanation of how to find valid resources in the cluster.]

Converting from passive voice to active voice often makes sentences conciser and easier to understand:

Not recommended

The Froobus operation is no longer supported by the Frambus app.

Recommended

The Frambus app no longer supports the Froobus operation.

In your enthusiasm to be concise, don't remove so many words that the resulting error message becomes cryptic. For example, don't reduce the preceding error message down to the following:

Not recommended

Unsupported.

Multiple choice exercise

How many words can you remove from the following first sentence of an error message?

  • The SiteID <SiteID> you have entered is invalid.
5
The error should read: Invalid SiteID <SiteID>.
3
You can remove more words.
4
You can remove more words.
None.
This message is not concise. You can definitely remove some words.

Next unit: Avoid double negatives