Ability vs Capability

Subject: Ability vs Capability
From: "Nancy C Kendall" <Nancy -dot- C -dot- Kendall -at- aexp -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L%LISTS.RAYCOMM.COM" <TECHWR-L -at- LISTS -dot- RAYCOMM -dot- COM>
Date: 21 Jun 2000 09:02:43 -0700

I'm not certain whether this is appropriate for the Techwr-L list, but since
tech writing requires us to deal with words and their usage, I thought I'd
submit these comments and ask a question. Keep in mind this is only the way
"I" view these words.

To me, the word "ability" should only be applied to a person, not to software
or a piece of equipment. For example: With the right equipment, a skilled
person has the ability to move mountains.

OTOH, the word "capability" should be applied to software or equipment.
For example: In the hands of a skilled operator, earth-moving equipment has
the capability of moving mountains.

I've checked Merriam-Webster's online dictionary and thesaurus and didn't see
any reason why these words should (or should not) be used in this way.

Anyone have any comments?

Nancy






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