RE: iff vs. if in documents

Subject: RE: iff vs. if in documents
From: Lisamarie Babik <lmbabik -at- winspc -dot- com>
To: "'SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM'" <SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000 13:48:52 -0500

I don't consider "iff" to be jargon. Heck, I even found it in my dictionary:

iff (somtimes read with a prolonged f): (1955) if and only if <two figures are
congruent ~ one can be placed over the other so that they coincide>

Then again, as a friend of mine likes to point out, Dictionary companies are in
the business of selling dictionaries, not preserving the language in any sort
of pure form...

Howerver, I disagree that its use will "weaken" your writing. I think you need
to consider your audience. If you are writing for a programmer, for example,
iff will mean nothing other than "if and only if". However, a programmer will
find repetitive use of the phrase "if and only if" not only cumbersome to read,
but damned annoying as well.

Again, I think this comes down to a more basic argument that's had on this list
about 400 times a year: do we write to our audience or are we bound by some
unspoken moral code to preserve the language from corruption?

*plink*plink* <----- my two cents

--
Lisamarie Babik
lmbabik -at- winspc -dot- com
Documentation Specialist

DataNet Quality Systems
24567 Northwestern Highway
Fourth Floor
Southfield, MI 48075
(248)357-2200


-----Original Message-----
From: SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM [SMTP:SteveFJong -at- AOL -dot- COM]
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2000 4:18 AM
To: TECHWR-L
Subject: Re: iff vs. if in documents

The word "iff," meaning "if and only if," is pure jargon, arising from
Boolean logic. It is not an English word. I consider it a brother of the
construction "unless and until," and a more obscure nephew of the common
constructions "and/or." We routinely edit out "and/or;" no one's tried to
slip by "iff" at our company.

I would respectfully disagree with the statement that "if" and "iff" are
different, or even ambiguous, *in the English language.* The common meaning
of "if" is the same. You only have to remove all possibly avenues for
ambiguity, using "if and only if," if you are questioning Bill Clinton 8^)

Once you open the door to terms like this, your prose will become much
weaker.

-- Steve

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