Re: Old thread, hopefully new spin on "allow" v. "enable."

Subject: Re: Old thread, hopefully new spin on "allow" v. "enable."
From: "Elizabeth A. Foshion" <foshione -at- dteenergy -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 08 Mar 2000 10:28:13 -0500

Since "enable" (disable) is sometimes used as a technical term to
describe turning on a software functionality, I tend to use "allow" or
"lets".

Elizabeth

Subject: "Allow" v. "enable"? Pick the right dictionary!
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Tue, 7 Mar 2000 10:18:21 -0500
X-Message-Number: 13

Ron Rhodes wondered: <<I have used the word "allow" throughout my career
as
a tech-writers. And I really don't have a problem with it even now.
But I
am wondering if perhaps "enable" is better when documenting
software...>>

By denotation (dictionary meaning), there's indeed little difference
between
the two words. However, _connotation_ (how people actually use words)
can
make a big difference. For example, a despot (did someone mention a
certain
software developer on the left coast?) "allows" you to do something;
training or your own indomitable spirit "enables" you to do something.
See
the difference? In the former case, someone else is making the decision
for
you (and this comes off as very condescending to some people), and in
the
latter, you yourself are in charge of the process. For most of us, it's
not
a big deal, and for a relatively sophisticated audience I tend to us
"lets";
that's shorter and less formal than "allows...to", and "feels" a bit
less
condescending. But if you've got a significant component of "nervous
newbies" or "overstressed oldies" in your audience, "enables" is
probably a
gentler way to say things.

<<But my Webster's and my Oxford rendered similar definitions for both
words.>>

Both are fairly "prescriptive" dictionaries. A "descriptive" dictionary
such
as the American Heritage unabridged is often a better resource for
technical
writers, because it discusses usage rather than just presenting formal
definitions.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca







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