Hocus Pocus (was "appears" vs. "is displayed")

Subject: Hocus Pocus (was "appears" vs. "is displayed")
From: "Thomas Quine" <quinet -at- home -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2000 23:17:47 -0800

Sorry to say I still have a lot of trouble with this one.
Consider these alternatives:
1. Click the "New" button. The New Customer window appears, open to the
Address tab.
2. Click the "New" button. The New Customer window will appear, open to the
Address tab.
I'm inclined to add the word "will", (making this the future conditional
tense) since it adds the implication "If you click the "New" button, the New
Customer window will appear." If you just say it appears, that seems to me
to sever the causality between the apparition and the act of clicking the
"New" button. The causality is further weakened if the second sentence is
placed on a separate line or in a step of its own, as it so often is.
By the way, I'm not using the term "apparition" lightly - I've known
technical writers who consistently used the terms "invoke" and "summon" when
referring to the way a screen or program is called up (and by the way, what
is the better verb? Surely not "called up...") But it always strikes me that
a window that just "appears" on its own is really behaving like an
apparition, whereas a window that will appear when the user clicks a button
is behaving as a user-directed tool should.
An earlier poster was correct in stating that "The New Customer window
appears" is a passive construction, since one hallmark of the passive voice
is difficulty in identifying the subject. Who or what made the New Customer
window appear? In the above sentence, on the face of it, the New Customer
window appeared, wraithlike, by itself!
- Thom

Thom Quine

2395 Oak St.
Vancouver, B.C.
V6H 2J8
(604) 733-3363
quinet -at- home -dot- com

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