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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".
<<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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