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The natural language of interactive systems

By Henry Ledgard, John A. Whiteside, Andrew Singer, William Seymour

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 23 No. 10, Pages 556-563

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The work reported here stems from our deep belief that improved human engineering can add significantly to the acceptance and use of computer technology. In particular, this report describes an experiment to test the hypothesis that certain features of natural language provide a useful guide for the human engineering of interactive command languages. The goal was to establish that a syntax employing familiar, descriptive, everyday words and well-formed English phrases contributes to a language that can be easily and effectively used. Users with varying degrees of interactive computing experience used two versions of an interactive text editor; one with an English-based command syntax in the sense described above, the other with a more notational syntax. Performance differences strongly favored the English-based editor.

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