And then ...

Subject: And then ...
From: "Nina Rogers" <Nina -dot- Rogers -at- DrakeSoftware -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 2010 12:19:49 -0400

I'm sure this has probably been addressed here before; if it has,
someone please point me to a link to the thread.

My question has to do with the little word "then" in sentences where it
isn't used as part of an "if ... then" sequence.

For years, I used a comma before it: "Enter the data, then click OK."

Then I was told that "then" must be preceded by a conjunction: "Enter
the data, and then click OK."

I also see a comma-less version pretty regularly: "Enter the data then
click OK."

And there's the semicolon version: "Enter the data; then click OK."

The first two examples are fine with me, even though I can see how the
first one can be considered a comma splice. The third looks like a
run-on since "then" is connecting two independent clauses. The semicolon
in the fourth example seems to stick out like a sore thumb, perhaps
because, while I use lots of semicolons when writing fiction or creative
nonfiction, I don't use them much in tech writing.

I've found/heard arguments/justification for all of the forms above.
Which form is correct ... or are more than one acceptable? If so, which
is "most" acceptable?

(Obviously, an easy way to solve this would be:

1. Enter the data.
2. Click OK.

But I'm curious as to how others use punctuation here.)


Nina Rogers, Technical Writer

Drake Software Tax Development

(828) 524-8020 x4204

nina -dot- rogers -at- drakesoftware -dot- com

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