Re: Wrong? Poor style? OK?

Subject: Re: Wrong? Poor style? OK?
From: Janice Gelb <Janice -dot- Gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM>
To: techwr-l mailinglist <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 25 Mar 2009 08:58:48 +1100

David Hailey wrote:
>
> Passive voice is not necessarily a problem. It depends on what
> you want to emphasize. If the subject is unimportant, insisting
> on emphasizing it can lead to difficult reading and ambiguity.
>
> [snip]
>
> BUT suppose you have a situation where you want to emphasize the DO.
>
> Only the test results may be saved on the C drive.
>
> (1) You may save the test results on the C drive only
> (2) You may only save the test results on the C drive
> (3) You may save only the test results on the C drive
> buries the point of the sentence and creates ambiguity in every case.
>
> Does it mean I must save the test results on the C drive and
> do nothing else? Does it mean I must save only the test results
> on the C drive and everything else wherever I wish? I can
> see no way of fixing the sentence without doubling its
> length to explain the correct process.

This seems to me to be a case of the placement of the
"only" eliminating ambiguity: "You may only save the
test results on the C drive" means that you can only
save, not extract (or whatever other action you can't
do). "You may save only the test results on the C drive"
means that you can't save anything else you might be
contemplating saving on the C drive except test results.

The option you haven't provided is:
You may save the test results only on the C drive.

>
> Also, "you" might
> be inappropriate. The sentence might about the subject and
> not to the subject.
>
> The IT professional may only save the test results on
> the C drive is really ugly and just as ambiguous.
>
> Clearly, passive is the better option, or should I say
> "Clearly, the IT professional's only option is the use of
> the passive voice." ;^]
>

I'm not sure what you mean by "The sentence might about
the subject and not to the subject." I assume you meant
to say "the sentence might *be* about the subject and
not to the subject" but I still am not sure what "to
the subject" means here.

At the risk of reopening a really ugly common argument
on here about "you," the only time that "you" might be
inappropriate imho is if you are writing a document
addressed to developers who are developing applications
for an end user and you are talking about the ultimate
end user and not the potential reader.

-- Janice

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Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: Nancy Allison
RE: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: Combs, Richard
RE: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: David Hailey

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