5 Ways to Write Better Error Messages

When you write error messages for software development projects, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid vague wording. Give specific names and locations of the objects involved.
  • Avoid “please.” It can be interpreted to mean that a required action is optional.
  • Do not refer to implementation details that are invisible to the user. For example, do not refer to the names of functions or objects in the program.
  • Avoid phrasing that will seem silly to the user, such as “unexpected error.”
  • Avoid using placeholder variables in the middle of a message. They are very hard to localize.

Correct

The name of the object file conflicts with that of another program in the project. File name: %s

Works did not find a match for this term.

Incorrect

You have named the object file with the name of another program in the project. File name: %s

The term you typed does not appear in this Works file.

Source: Manual of Style for Technical Publications

Error Messages Template

Use this Error Message Guide template (14 pages MS Word) to show users how to resolve error messages that may appear in your application. This template also comes in the Technical Writing Template Pack (233 pages MS Word). Scroll down for more details and screenshots.

Download Now for only $4.99!

Download Template

Download these templates to start

Acceptance Test Plan

Contingency Plan

Software Development Templates

Acquisition Plan

Conversion Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Action Plan

Cost Benefit Analysis

Software Testing

API Documentation

Database Design

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

Audience Analysis

Datasheet

Statement of Work

Availability Plan

Deployment Plan

System Administration Guide

Bill of Materials

Design Document

System Boundary

Business Case

Disaster Recovery Plan

System Design Document

Business Continuity

Disposition Plan

System Specifications

Business Plan

Documentation Plan

Technical Writing Templates

Business Process

Employee Handbook

Test Plan

Business Requirements

Error Message Guide

Training Plan

Business Rules

Expression of Interest

Transition Plan

Capacity Plan

Fact Sheet

Troubleshooting Guide

Case Study

Feasibility Study

Use Case

Change Management Plan

Functional Requirements

User Guide

Communication Plan

Grant Proposal

Verification and Validation Plan

Concept of Operations

Implementation Plan

White Papers

Concept Proposal

Installation Plan

Work Instructions

Configuration Management Plan

Interface Control Document

Software Development Templates

Acceptance Test Plan

Maintenance Plan

Software Requirements Specification

Acquisition Plan

Market Research

Software Testing

Action Plan

Marketing Plan

Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)

API Documentation

Needs Statement

Statement of Work

Audience Analysis

Operations Guide

System Administration Guide

Availability Plan

Policy Manual

System Boundary

Bill of Materials

Project Plan

System Design Document

Business Case

Proposal Manager Templates

System Specifications

Business Continuity

Proposal Template

Technical Writing Templates

Business Plan

Quality Assurance Plan

Test Plan

Business Process

Release Notes

Training Plan

Business Requirements

Request for Proposal

Transition Plan

Business Rules

Risk Management Plan

Troubleshooting Guide

Capacity Plan

Scope of Work

Use Case

Case Study

Security Plan

User Guide

Change Management Plan

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

Verification and Validation Plan

Communication Plan

Setup Guide

White Papers

Concept of Operations

Social Media Policy

Work Instructions

Concept Proposal

Contingency Plan

 

Configuration Management Plan

Conversion Plan