TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Folks have been discussing the word to use for whatever it is
we do to a keyboard key to make it work.
Whenever a question arises of which word to use, I go
word-hunting in dictionaries and thesauruses (thesauri? :-),
which produces the following results, with my comments on each:
Press "To act on with steady force or weight."
This isn't quite the right action; we're not using
Tap "To strike lightly."
Good. The only problem might be in communicating how
much force is needed. You can tap a key lightly
without producing the desired result.
Hit "1. To come against (something) with force."
"2. To give a blow (to); strike."
Both meanings imply too much force. Have you seen the
poster of the duck with a mallet raised over the
keyboard (caption is "Hit any key to continue")?
Strike "To give a blow to."
Too much force.
Depress "To press down."
Close, but _press_ wasn't quite right. There's also the
confusion with the mental state of depression.
Mash "1. To change into a soft mass by beating, crushing."
"2. To crush or injure."
Click "To make or cause to make a click [slight sharp sound]."
Close, but I've used (and prefer!) keyboards that don't
click, and I think it might be better to keep this verb
for mouse actions.
Punch1 "1. To pierce, stamp, etc. with a punch."
Punch2 "1. To prod with a stick."
"2. To strike with the fist."
Whack "To strike or slap with a sharp, resounding blow."
Wrong action. (I took this verb from the subject line,
just for fun.)
Touch "1. To put the hand, etc. on so as to feel."
"4. To strike lightly."
The second meaning is good, but you can touch a key
(first meaning) without causing the desired result.
Push "To press against so as to move."
Followed by _push button_, "a small knob pushed to
operate something electrically."
Close, but I have visions of people pushing their
keyboards around all over their desks instead of
pushing down on a key.
Type "To write with a typewriter." Given under _typewrite_.
If you view the computer keyboard as successor to the
typewriter keyboard, here's a verb specifically for the
action of pressing its keys. How about it, folks?
In the past, I've used _press_ for a single-key action and
_type_ for a piece of information, as in "Press the Tab key
and type your name." It appears that using just the verb
_type_ might be a better choice, as in "Type the X key and then
type your name."
By the way, I've found the best way to explain the action "hold
down one key while you type another" (as in Ctrl and Alt key
combinations) is to compare it to using the Shift key.
PS: I used the paperback _Webster's New World Dictionary_,
because it was within arm's reach. Anyone have significantly
different results with another dictionary?