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Subject:Don't "Should" on Me! From:Richard Sobocinski <"Richard_G_Sobocinski%~WHC207"@CCMAIL.PNL.GOV> Date:Thu, 2 Jun 1994 15:56:00 -0700
What think you about the use of "should," "have to," "must," "need to," and
(sometimes) "WILL" in the instructions that you read and write?
I've nothing against the words themselves. Obviously enough, they work well
many other contexts. But, I find it offensive when someone uses these terms
get me to do something (e.g., "You must enter the correct password.")
By using any one of these terms in giving instructions, a writer-- 1. Treats
the readers as if they were children, 2. Treats the readers as if they had no
free will, 3. Sounds moralistic and preachy, 4. Makes statements instead of
requests, and 5. Needlessly lengthens sentences (e.g., "You need to enter the
correct password." is 75% longer than "Enter the correct password.")
In my usage those words have DEFINED meanings that are known
to the users and in certain cases those words are meant to
TELL the user exactly what to do (even if it does sound
preachy or tyrannical). The point is some of us write
instructions where a misinterpretation or violation of the
intended action could result in severe injury or death.