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How to put the instructive space into words

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2 Author(s)
Maes, A.A. ; Discourse Studies Group, Tilburg Univ., Netherlands ; Lenting, H.

The quality of technical documents often depends on the way in which spatial information is expressed. The coherent processing of installation procedures, route directions, maintenance instructions, and many other technical documents often implies the construction of an almost literal mental space within which instructions have to be executed. Visuals are certainly a powerful tool in expressing instructive space, but text remains indispensable and even dominant. The article focuses on verbal spatial expressions in instructions in which text and visuals are combined. The first part provides the reader with an overview of the problems associated with putting the instructive space into language, In the second part, we report the setup and results of an experiment in which the preference for two basic types of spatial expressions is investigated: user-oriented descriptions (e.g., pull the handle to the right) versus functional descriptions (e.g., push the start switch toward the tone button). The results show an overall preference for producing functional descriptions, but also a higher degree of acceptability for user-oriented descriptions if the user-oriented perspective is explicitly expressed in text

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:42 ,  Issue: 2 )