May or may not?

Subject: May or may not?
From: Geoff hart <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "techwr-l (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 15:52:30 -0500

Mr Smith wondered how to rewrite the following: <<Depending on [blah], you
may or may not be able to...[blah blah blah].>>

The first problem here is that the sentence is meaningless: if you list a
condition ("depending on"), and know that the results are predictable, then
you should state the result of the action for each possibility (whether or
not that condition has been fulfilled). The second problem is that the
sentence doesn't seem to relate to what the person is trying to accomplish,
but rather describes the state of the software (or whatever). The best way
to revise this depends on whether this is a step in a procedure or narrative
intended to provide an overview of what could happen, but in either case,
the solution is to be specific about which setting is required to accomplish
the task.

Procedural: To do A, you must first do B. [or: You can only do B after
you've done A.]

Narrative: The A setting determines whether or not you can do B. To be able
to do B, you must first set A as follows...

--Geoff Hart, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"The paperless office will arrive when the paperless toilet
arrives."--Matthew Stevens

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