RE: Use of 'populate'

Subject: RE: Use of 'populate'
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Michelle Vina-Baltsas" <Michelle_Vina-Baltsas -at- datascope -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2008 11:57:48 -0500

On Behalf Of Michelle Vina-Baltsas wanted to know:

> How do you all feel about using the word 'populate' in technical
> documents?
> For example,
> 1) Click the Actions button, then select Modify from the menu.
> 2) Populate the Approval Date:.
> 3) Populate the CR Number:.

I'll probably get in trouble for this, but I _do_ use the word
'populate' occasionally. However, when I use it, it's always with regard
to multiple things at once, and rarely an instruction. Maybe something
like: "After typing the required information into the text fields, and
choosing among the options in the drop-down selection lists on this
form, click [Submit] to populate (or update) the configuration database
More likely, "The web form populates a database that the system uses for
blah-blah. You can also view and update the records directly with a text
editor or via script, when rolling out to large numbers of client
computers, or to remote computers."

As a rule, I would not use "populate" for an instruction to fill in a
single field. Generally, information goes in by 'freehand' typing (that
might or might not be subjected to syntax checking), or by choosing from
canned lists of what's appropriate (thereby bypassing any need for
syntax checking). So tell the user to type or tell the user to choose or
select, or whatever other term describes the action that they perform...
and that you have used elsewhere for similar actions ... see the recent
thread about not calling something by different names in the same
documents and not calling different things by the same name in a

I've been guilty of using "input" as a verb, but I write for engineers
and other technical people. Some folks might not recognize "input" as a
verb, whereas they are likely to recognize "type" or "insert". You'll
also be more popular with translators.

PS: (* But it can be useful to provide a 'glossary' of other terms that
the reader might encounter, or might know from outside experience,
before stating that you have settled on <the-word-that-you-chose> for
your document.)
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Use of 'populate': From: Michelle Vina-Baltsas

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