RE: Imperatives or not?

Subject: RE: Imperatives or not?
From: "Geoff Lane" <geoff -at- gjctech -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: "'Sierra Godfrey'" <kittenbreath -at- hotbot -dot- com>, "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Jun 2000 00:35:37 +0100

Sierra Godfrey wrote:
> Ahoy mateys:
> I'm writing a manual which contains several sections with
> setp-by-step directions. I have given the headings of the
> sections imperatives, such as: "Set Network Addresses" and
> "Select the Operation Mode".

and asks for reasons why they should stay as imperatives.
Avast awhile!

IMO, there is one solid reason why most headings should *not* be set in
imperative mood. This is because imperatives instruct readers immediately to
perform the specified actions in the order presented, rather than advise
them how to do it when the need arises. Misuse of imperative mood for
headings can make imperative / indicative moods near useless as clues to
content type.

However, there is one exception: If a heading is major step of a
hierarchical procedure, then it should be set in imperative mood. For
example, if your directions form the set up prodedure for a bridge/router,
you might have:

To configure the unit:
Set Network Addresses
1. blah blah blah
2. blah blah
Select the Operation Mode
1. blah blah
2. ...

Here the headings are major procedural steps with the numbered steps
providing the finer detail. For this case, I consider imperative mood to be

Just my two eurocents, but HTH,

Geoff Lane
Cornwall, UK
geoff -at- gjctech -dot- co -dot- uk

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