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After several decades of user-friendly software development, I would have thought that software companies would have mastered the simple art of writing clear instructions. Not Microsoft, though—at least not when they explain how to download and install the
“Open XML File Format Converter for Mac 1.0”.

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Please cover my mouth and nose

Perhaps I am too much of a rational mind, but I must confess
I am frequently confused by what I regard as inconsistent uses
of grammatical person and number in pronouns.

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Notices no one wants to notice

Legal copy never ceases to baffle me. What are those lawyers thinking when writing those texts that no one wants to read? Are they actually kidding themselves to the point of believing that they are communicating anything useful to their audience?

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You call this a “presentation”?

While viewing a LinkedIn ad that encourages users to “embed a presentation” on their profiles, I was struck by the conception of a presentation perpetuated by both the words and the illustration.

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Is this a quiz?

In a page layout, prominence suggests relative importance. Periodically, I am reminded of how not to apply prominence, as I try to save an Excel spreadsheet in so-called CSV format (comma-separated values) and I get this ineffective dialog box.

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Ah, the frustration of effectiveness…

An online review of Trees, maps, and theorems in June 2009 by Tom Johnson serves to illustrate what is in my experience a widespread misconception about the nature of noise.

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Put your signs where I can see them

Just last week, as I was staying at a hotel near Washington, DC, it took me several days to notice a sign placed in the shower. I had to get down on my knees to be able to read what it said.

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Preventing crimes before they happen

“Data help prevent crimes before they happen” said this ad by IBM, which I spotted at O’Hare airport in Chicago. Can you prevent anything after it happens? I didn’t think so.

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A typical business presentation (sigh)

As we were revising a set of financial slides designed for the audit committee of a client, Geneviève and I were struck at once by three shortcomings, so typical of the business communication we get to witness today.

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Are the French twisting your arm?

Every time I look at this sign, found at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, my right shoulder twitches and my right foot wants to tap dance. Why this unconventional, unintuitive graphical choice to represent a human being?

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