RE: Grammar Q

Subject: RE: Grammar Q
From: Fred Ridder <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2008 13:30:11 -0500


Kevin McLaughlin wrote (in part):
> > So 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. :-)
One thing this whole discussion has overlooked is that both the explicit
second person and the future tense have a legitimate use when it is
desirable to describe some alternative action and the (typically
undesirable or unintended) result of that action. What I'm referring to
is a kind of informational admonition that doesn't need the additional
emphasis of a "note" or "caution" markup. For example, in a procedure
step, you may say something like:
If you click Foo [instead of Bar], a kludge will occur.
with the assumption that the reader is not trying to accomplish a kludge.
If the result of the nonstandard action is atypical or undesirable, it
doesn't work to recast the statement as:
To perform a kludge, click Foo.
because that's not what the reader needs or wants to do.
It seems to me that in the hypothetical case of hypotheticals, the
future tense is specifically appropriate because it *is* talking about
the "nebulous future", namely an action or result that should not be
made to occur when following the procedure.

Every rule has an exception. Oops, hold on; that can't be right!
Every rule *except*this*one* has an exception. That's the ticket!

-Fred Ridder





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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Grammar Q: From: louise . r . stevanovic
RE: Grammar Q: From: McLauchlan, Kevin
Re: Grammar Q: From: J Wermont
RE: Grammar Q: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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