Posted by: Jack Henry | July 17, 2017

Editor’s Corner: How to Write About Panes

Panes are probably the simplest user interface element, but their simplicity is deceptive—writing about panes is tricky. Here are some tips for describing panes, and some pitfalls to avoid.

What Is a Pane?

The Microsoft Manual of Style defines panes as “the separate areas of a split or single window.” The IBM Style Guide defines pane as “a framed section of a window or web page.”

For example, in the mail area of Microsoft® Outlook®, you might see three panes:

1. The navigation pane on the left

2. The message pane in the middle

3. The preview pane on the right

In File Explorer (formerly known as Windows® Explorer), you might see two panes:

1. The navigation pane on the left

2. The files pane on the right

How to Describe Panes

If a pane has a title that appears in the user interface, refer to it using the title (capitalized and in italics), followed by the word pane.

Example: Tracked changes appear in the Revisions pane.

Tip: Writers sometimes use the words pane and panel interchangeably, but the Microsoft Manual of Style and The IBM Style Guide both use the word pane.

If a pane does not have a title, refer to it by a descriptive name (lowercase and not italicized), followed by the word pane. Choose a name based on the pane’s contents, not its location within the window.

Example: In the preview pane, click Reply.

It can be helpful to describe a pane’s location in addition to giving it a descriptive name, but watch out! Many programs allow users to choose where panes appear. For example, in Outlook, the preview pane might appear at the bottom of the window instead of on the right side.

Tip: As always, consider the technical sophistication of your audience. For experienced Outlook users, it’s sufficient to refer to “the preview pane.” For novice users, you might say, “the preview pane, which appears on the right side of the window or at the bottom of the window.”

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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