Re: Focus & Proc'd

Subject: Re: Focus & Proc'd
From: Isaac Rabinovitch <isaacr -at- mailsnare -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2003 13:25:10 -0800

Karen West wrote:

I usually follow the guidelines in the Microsoft Manual of Style but
I've drawn a blank with these two, as has FOLDOC and Webopedia:

focus - the window has focus, has regained focus

This supports my previous rant about these sources not being language authorities.

You're not going to find word usage in a style book -- you need a dictionary. I'm afraid my usual authority, American Heritage, doesn't mention this usage of "focus", even though I've seen it any number of times. Nor do any of my technical dictionaries -- they're all pre-GUI. (How embarrassing!) This usage *is* in the online dictionary, but that one, while a little more authoritative than most, is still of uncertain origin or verification. I'd suggest buying a good, uhm, *recent* technical dictionary. Somebody else suggest the one from Microsoft. Probably as good as any, especially since you're already using the MS style manual.

proc'd - when the application has proc'd Command Mode

In another post you explain that "proc" is a command in a CLI your product uses. Now, you're certainly going to hear techies use online commands as verbs, but that's an informal, shorthand usage, and thus uncool in any formal document, such as a manual. It's also pretty confusing. Does your example mean "when the application has entered command mode by use of a proc command (and not when it enters it some other way)," or does it just mean "when the application has entered command mode (no exceptions)"? My point here is that you should always express a concept with the simplest and most ordinary language you can think of, even if there's a handy bit of jargon. So even if you can assume your audience knows what "proc" means, and you're not picky about informal usage, you should still avoid using it as a verb, for the sake of clarity.

As long as I'm picking your nits, I might as well remind you that use of passive voice is often a sign of vague language. In this case, passive voice means you describe the result of a proc command without specifying who or what did the procing. Was it a user? A script? That might or might not be important, but in my experience it usually is.



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