Re: Using the word "may"

Subject: Re: Using the word "may"
From: "Dan Roberts" <droberts63 -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "Mr Smith" <techwritermw -at- altavista -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 18:49:39 -0500

fwiw, I first got introduced to language nuances like this from IBM. In the
late 80s, they had a big push to simplify the language, and use terms that
could not be mis-translated or misunderstood as easily. So, you couldn't
'execute' a program, but you could 'run' it. You could't 'terminate' is, but
you 'stop' it. Nothing was 'invalid'--it was 'not valid'. Panels don't
'appear' like a white dove out of a magician's hat; they were "displayed"
which, in turn, opened up another whole can of worms. [Thank God Windoze and
someone on this list, name unremembered, suggested that windows and dialogs
'open' and 'close' for me! Tho I still don't know what panels do].

So the word 'may' was deemed to mean "grant permission" only. So, what about
"might," you wonder? Avoid it. Well, what about "could?" Avoid it also.
"Can" was the word of choice.

so, "depending on X, you can or cannot do Z"

and that's kinda yucky also. To de-yuck, I'd try
"If X is on (or happens, or returns a response, or whatever it does), you
can do Z. If X is off, you cannot."
I think that helps make clear when you can and when you cannot do Z.

But that, and $0.50 will get you a cup of coffee.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mr Smith <techwritermw -at- altavista -dot- com>
>I've checked several sources and the archives, but I'm not sure what to to
about the following sentence:
>"Depending on [blah], you may or may not be able to...[blah blah blah]."
>Any suggestions about how to rewrite?

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