Counting one or more things (was: Annoying grammar question...)

Subject: Counting one or more things (was: Annoying grammar question...)
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 19 Jun 2000 09:08:40 -0400

Emily wonders <<Is it "One or more things is" or "One or more things are"?>>

Just a reminder; Eric frowns on strictly grammatical questions on techwr-l.
If you find you need this kind of advice regularly, you're better off
joining copyediting-l and posting the questions there. (Subscription
information: send the message "subscribe copyediting-l Geoff Hart" (replace
my name with yours, and don't type the quotes) to
"listserv -at- listserv -dot- indiana -dot- edu".)

Techwr-l tie in and response: Forms of the verb "to be" are <g> weak verbs
in any context, and doubly so in technical communication. You should
generally turn this around so that you present the options more clearly
(i.e., why the user might need more than one). For example, "one or more
passwords are required to log in" should become "you require one general
login password, plus an additional password for each restricted service you
plan to access" or something similar.

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

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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