RE: Preposition at Beginning or End?

Subject: RE: Preposition at Beginning or End?
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Keith Hansen" <KRH -at- weiland-wfg -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2007 10:43:22 -0600

Keith Hansen wrote:

> Which sentence do you prefer:
> Sentence No. 1: "From the Country drop-down list, select USA."
> Sentence No. 2: "Select USA from the Country drop-down list."
> To me, the first example is more logical: first, you tell
> them where to go, then you tell them what to do. However, the
> second example is more conversational (resembles spoken English).

No. 1 _is_ more logical, for exactly the reason you state. I don't think
No. 2 is conversational. A conversational version might be "For Country,
pick USA" or "Set Country to USA."

But if your procedure tells users they must pick USA, why is there even
a list?

> Please vote for No. 1 or No. 2. Please include a reason for
> your preference. I REALLY would like to see if there is any
> consensus here.
> ALSO: Consider this sentence:
> * "Click in the Name text box and type your name."
> I would never write this sentence:
> * "In the Name text box, click and type your name."
> It sounds totally wrong to begin with a preposition here--but
> not so wrong in Sentence No. 1 above. Why?

It's not the preposition that seems awkward to me, it's "click and
type." "In the Name box, type your name" sounds fine. Unless you're
addressing people who've never used a computer, "click and" is utterly

No matter who your audience is, there's no good reason for "text box" --
or for "drop-down list" in the earlier example. Just "box" and "list,"
please -- you're telling readers how to perform a task, not teaching
them the developers' names for user interface elements.

IMHO, of course. ;-)


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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Preposition at Beginning or End?: From: Keith Hansen

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