Re: Grammar Q

Subject: Re: Grammar Q
From: J Wermont <jwermont -at- sonic -dot- net>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2008 14:49:18 -0800

McLauchlan, Kevin wrote:

>> why not use the future tense?

> I guess because it's in the nebulous future. When will it appear?
> Instantly? (... in which case, you might as well have said "... dialog
> appears") or some indeterminate time afterward (in which case other
> things could have cropped up and distracted from the sequence, or we
> just get tired of waiting, or...).
> The argument that makes sense to me is that all the instructions occur
> in the immediate present tense (written as imperatives), so the response
> events might as well be described with the same immediacy. Otherwise,
> you'd legitimately get into the future for your instructions any time
> after the first step. "... a dialog will appear. Then you will select
> ... after which, you will need to..."
> It's not that the responses HAVE to be in the same tense as the
> instructions and actions that surround them, just that it's cleaner and
> somehow more consistent to have everything happen in the glowing, vital
> now. :-)

OK, I understand this argument.

But here's another reason for using "will" to talk about things that
happen as a consequence of the user's actions. It seems, at least
to my ear, to flow more naturally. Let's say I were talking to someone
in person, trying to explain how to shift gears in a stick shift car.
I might say the following:

"Press down on the clutch with your left foot. The gears will disengage
and you'll be able to shift into the next higher gear. If you don't
press all the way down on the clutch, though, the gears will grind."

I would not say:

"Press down on the clutch with your left foot. The gears disengage
and you're able to shift into the next higher gear. If you don't
press all the way down on the clutch, though, the gears grind."

That sounds so unnatural to me that I think it would be distracting
to the listener. I'm not talking about tenses anymore, btw - I'm just
talking about naturalness of speech.

I write technical manuals in a conversational tone. I want the language
to flow as naturally as conversation. I don't mean that I write in slang,
as someone else recently said, or using sloppy wording. I just write in
a style that people normally use in conversation.


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Re: Grammar Q: From: J Wermont
RE: Grammar Q: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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