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Thanks, Fred, you described my situation better than I could myself. I'll suggest "allow but not require" to Those Who Code.
By the way, for anyone looking for a little adventure in tech writing, nothing quite compares with the middle ground between the coders and the testers. Writing requirements and test cases that please everyone is a little like working at the United Nations during an arms crisis.
From: Fred Ridder
Sent: Monday, April 09, 2012 9:13 AM
To: mstockman -at- gmail -dot- com; Dan Goldstein
Cc: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: RE: "Allow" vs. "Require"
I'd probably agree with this approach if we were talking about user documentation. But the audience for the document is software developers, and the purpose of the document is to spell out for them what specific things the code they write needs to do. That's different from anthropomorphizing software because the software doesn't exist until the people reading the specification write it.
And to answer Dan's question, if it's really important that a specific user action be optional, I'd be inclined to express this explicitly in a spec by using "allow but not require". My experience has been that "optional" is a dangerous word in specifications because a developer working to the spec can misinterpret the word as applying to the requirement (negating the carefully and deliberately used "shall") rather than the user's action and not implement the feature at all. I have seen this happen accidentally (developers who speak ESL), but at least once it seemed to have been deliberate (a developer who was both a know-it-all and a seriously passive-aggressive personality type who loved to nit-pick *every* document that crossed his desk, including memos from his managers).
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