"Type" vs. "Enter"?

Subject: "Type" vs. "Enter"?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 22 Oct 2004 17:34:39 -0400

Chuck Martin reports: <<I'm surprised, but then I'm surprised at what I just read in the online edition of the Microsoft manual of Style:>>

You're not alone. Every time someone writes in with a question about MMOS, I think I'm done being surprised, then the very next question tops it. The thing to remember about style guides is that they're _guides_, not _rules_. As such, they guide you to solutions that the authors have found to be effective. If you disagree, no language police will arrest you for choosing another solution that also works. That's why there are dozens of style guides available.

<<Correct: Type your password, and then press ENTER. In the File name box, enter the name of the file.>>

No problems here, except that "and then" is redundant; it's perfectly idiomatic and grammatical to drop the "and".

<<Incorrect: Enter your password, and then click OK. At the prompt, enter the path and file name.>>

This is the main problem I have with MMOS: in an attempt to produce rules that promote consistency (a good thing), they repeatedly demonstrate their ignorance of modern English usage. Neither of these examples is _incorrect_ in any meaningful way; they are incorrect only in that they don't follow MMOS.

More to the point, this is an example of Emerson's "foolish consistency that is the hobgoblin of small minds". The goal of consistency is to avoid confusion in the reader's mind by using each word, as much as possible, in the same way. The key concept here is "to avoid confusion". If there's no risk of confusion, there's not all that much need to be consistent. That's not to say you should go out of your way to be creative with synonyms, but rather that consistency is a goal, not an absolute.

<<Now this counters what I learned and what I've been doing for years. I was taught that "type" is wrong specifically because you can't assume that every user will be typing. From vice to handwriting, there are any number of ways to enter information into a field, and some ways are limited because of user disability.>>

"Vice"? <g> While your point is valid, it's also true that anyone who has replaced the keyboard with another type of input device will know what you mean when you say "type". Just avoid "speak friend and enter". <g>

<<I know, I know, you'll say "pick one and be consistent." But I'm more concerned about appropriateness, and to me, "enter" is both completely synonymous with and not as limiting as "type.">>


--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)


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