I have been tasked with including a column on a form for executive meeting attendees to check a box indicating they have brought briefing materials. I need to put some sort of header on the column, but it will only need to be as wide as a check box – one or two letters. So making a header that says “Check this box if you brought briefing materials” would make the column ludicrously wide. Obviously I will put that instruction elsewhere, perhaps in a footer, and use some sort of abbreviation for Briefing Materials to head the column.
But there’s no way I’m making a column that says “BM” and has a check box by everyone’s name.
Using “PM” for Presentation Materials would be confusing too, although not as funny.
I am leaning toward simply using a large asterisk.
If anyone has any better suggestion for how to handle this (i.e., a serious suggestion), don’t hesitate to add it to this thread. I have little doubt the non-serious suggestions will be added whether I ask for them or not.
The phrase I have underlined/bolded is where you have gone astray. The column actually needs to be wide enough to hold the proper HEADER, i.e., a header that is instantly clear to the most lazy, foggy-brained, contentious attendee as to EGGZACKERY what you mean. IOW the check mark isn’t the determiner of how wide the column is, the header itself needs to be as wide (even on two or three lines) as it needs to be.
Regarding the word “ludicrous”: there is nothing ludicrous about clarity. Seriously. You will not go wrong by being clear. Brevity is not a virtue if it comes at the cost of clarity.
Believe me, if there’s any way someone can misunderstand or completely fail to understand what you mean, they will. Make it crystal-fucking-clear, and if need be, include an asterisk and a footnote explaining what you mean by “briefing/presentation materials.”
If you live by the rules that 1) people don’t read, and 2) if they do read, they don’t read carefully, and 3) you know what you mean but THEY don’t unless you spell it out clearly, you will do well in this world.
I tell my client whenever she sends out an email to read it carefully and imagine ALL of the ways it can POSSIBLY be misinterpreted/misunderstood, and fix those things before she sends. There will still be people who completely miss the point, but maybe not quite as many.
The Sad Voice of Experience speaking.
True story: I worked as a computer operator in the 1970s, running various cutting-edge mainframe super-computers of the day. Two of them were new and not very reliable, and crashed incessantly. They produced some kind of core-dump file, and we were supposed to run a program called Analyzer that did some kind of post-mortem analysis for the system guys to see.
There was a check-box column in the log book that we were supposed to check when we did that. The heading on the column was “Anal”.
I almost immediately pointed that out to TPTB, who were duly embarassed. When came the next printing of the log sheets, they changed it to “Anlz”