Displays vs. Appears

Subject: Displays vs. Appears
From: "Jayaseelan Pannirselvam" <jayaseelan -dot- pannirselvam -at- ite -dot- com -dot- au>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 23:47:01 +1000

Let me start this with a disclaimer: I'm not a native speaker of the
Queen's or Uncle Sam's English (and just in case my Canadian,
Australian, New Zealand, and South African colleagues are feeling left
out - I don't do your native English language and its nuances as well as
you can) so my writing is bound to suck and I get the feeling it has
already begun to with this long, rambling sentence. But as an old MTV
India zinger goes, "We are Indians, we are like that only." :)

Without further wasting your time and bandwidth as well as mine, lemme
cut to the chase.

I've been conflicted for some time now about using the word "display" in
its intransitive sense. I know some of you are screaming "No way can
things 'display' intransitively" or something more elegant. The
venerable M-W Online echoes that for sure and I thought it hinted subtly
(or not so subtly), with its 'penguin' example, that "display" as an
intransitive verb is only for "exhibitionists". :)

So my question is: Is there an outside chance that the sentence "When
you click the Home page icon, the Techwhirler Home page displays" will
pass muster in the tech writing world? I was, until recently, using the
intransitive "displays" quite extensively in my user manuals . And I
think my American boss and editor either approved it or simply glossed
over it. Unfortunatley, he quit our company and I'm not in touch with
him, and hence this post.

None of my readers - native English speakers all - have so far come back
to me with complaints about my earlier intransigent use of the
intransitive "displays" (if you detect any pun there, however bad, it's
intended). From which I conclude that it belongs in the Andrew Platonian
font-fondling league and hence readers really wouldn't care.

So what think ye? Is the intransitive "display" a strict no-no? Or will
the editor-types display some consideration and not think my pages,
windows, and messages exhibitionist?



P.S. I'm about to pack it in for the day and I just realised that
there's a chance that this topic was discussed earlier. No time now for
me to hit the archives. But then again, this topic is probably deserving
of a revisit. :)


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