"Disable the User"?

Subject: "Disable the User"?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Jim Morgan <Jim -dot- Morgan -at- jdsu -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 28 Jun 2007 13:43:33 -0400

Jim Morgan wonders: <<An application I am documenting offers a
feature by which an administrator can suspend a user's privileges,
and this must be done before the user account can be removed from the
system. The button for this feature says "Disable." This leads to the
following confirmation prompt: "Are you sure you want to Disable the

Yeah, that's a bad choice of wording. Without going all politically
correct on you, it's important to note that (a) many disabled users
will be offended and (b) you are not in fact disabling a user, but
rather eliminating certain privileges. So it's both offensive and

The question is what you're actually doing here: Does this prevent
the user from logging in? In that case, some variant of "disable
logins" or (if you want to avoid the D word) "block logins" or
"temporarily suspend access to the system". Does it allow them to log
in but with reduced privileges? In that case, the better choice is
some variant of "change permissions [or access rights]".

<<If I follow my standard format for section headings, I also have to
have a heading that says "Disable a User." And at some point, again
if following my standard style, I would enter a warning that said,
"You can only delete a disabled user.">>

Personally, I immediately flash on Dilbert when I see that heading:
"On the plus side, the new and improved product no longer kills its
users -- it just disables them." Not a good choice. Again, use
wording that focuses on what you're actually doing: blocking logins
or changing access rights or permissions.

Use the right word for the job!

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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"Disable the User": From: Jim Morgan

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