Anthropomorphism [was RE Table punctuation]

Subject: Anthropomorphism [was RE Table punctuation]
From: Yves JEAUROND <jingting -at- rogers -dot- com>
To: "Chinell, David F \(GE Indust, Security\)" <David -dot- Chinell -at- GE -dot- com>, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 14:51:08 -0400 (EDT)

David Chinell:

You wrote: Finally, a nit-pick about "allows you to."
I don't like that formulation [...] in our end-user material.
I'd prefer "lets you."

You bring up a very good point on usage. For some verbs,
a human subject is a necesssity. :-) A user can allow software
to be installed on a PC, but SW can't allow anything.
And _The Microsoft Manual of Style_ [1st ed., 'allow'] agrees with you.

I'd say the same for "to let", too. In a procedure, it can be
just as clear to be direct:
=> Type data in field x. // Rather than "Field x lets you enter data."
=> Enter data using field x.
It helps to view the SW as a mechanical device,
rather than as an ersatz clerk, typesetter or attendant
awaiting your bidding.

Empower users, not the SW :-)
Bending the language to attribute human qualities to SW is
kind of strange, even if for the sake of expediency.


Yves Jeaurond

"Chinell, David F (GE Indust, Security)" <David -dot- Chinell -at- GE -dot- com> a écrit :
Nancy and all:

I've voiced my thoughts on list and table punctuation before, but I've
recently changed my ideas, so I thought I should chime in here. The
change came about after I got feedback in an STC competition, then
subsequently stumbled on this passage in the MS MoS:

"End each entry with a period if all entries are complete sentences or
are a mixture of fragments
and sentences. An exception is when all entries are short imperative
sentences (only
a few words); these entries do not need a period. If all entries are
fragments, do not end
them with periods."

They're talking about table entries here, but have similar guidelines
for bulleted lists.

This seems almost as simple as my former approach, but gives some visual
consistency to the punctuation of the table as a whole. Before the
feedback, I was punctuating row-by-row. So one row might have two
fragments, each ending with a period, but the next row might have a
single fragment, and have no terminating punctuation.

Even though I was applying a coherent rule with perfect consistency, the
table was perceived as having inconsistent punctuation, even by an
"expert" reader.

To apply this to your situation, I'd be inclined to add the intermediate
"or" for the sake of consistency.

It's hard to make a sound decision without seeing the entire table or
the entire work, and others who have challenged the tabular approach
have good arguments as well. I often use a "winged or" -- the word "or"
surrounded by em dashes. So...

* Enter a name for your personal clown.
-- or --
* Leave blank for us to choose one for you.

Finally, a nit-pick about "allows you to." I don't like that formulation
-- it seems uncharacteristically stuffy for the tone we try to set in
our end-user material. I'd prefer "lets you."

This field... Lets you...



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RE: Table punctuation: From: Chinell, David F \(GE Indust, Security\)

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