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


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
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

By denotation (dictionary meaning), there's indeed little difference
the two words. However, _connotation_ (how people actually use words)
make a big difference. For example, a despot (did someone mention a
software developer on the left coast?) "allows" you to do something;
training or your own indomitable spirit "enables" you to do something.
the difference? In the former case, someone else is making the decision
you (and this comes off as very condescending to some people), and in
latter, you yourself are in charge of the process. For most of us, it's
a big deal, and for a relatively sophisticated audience I tend to us
that's shorter and less formal than "", and "feels" a bit
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

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

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

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