British Petroleum (BP), responsible for the worst oil spill in U.S. history, should be given an award. Not for their oil drilling abilities (which one could fairly say are a tad below par), but on their naming abilities.
Specifically, whoever coined the term top kill to describe their latest failed effort to plug the ruptured oil line is a genius. It beautifully and succinctly describes an incredibly complex process.
Technical communicators are often asked to name things, specifically fields and other elements in a user interface. Giving objects clear, simple and self-descriptive names is often quite a challenge.
As an example, several months ago I reviewed the interface of a file migration utility. This application migrates files of one type into another. The interface consists of just one large dialog box. The user enter various parameters, then clicks a button to start the process. The question is: what should the button label be?
Initially, this button was simply labeled Go, but that’s not very self-descriptive, is it? Also, Go only has two letters, making the button rather small in stature. The label I suggested, and which was implemented, was: Start migration. It’s not as sexy as Top Kill, but it does the job.