Don't should on me

Subject: Don't should on me
From: Richard Sobocinski <"Richard_G_Sobocinski%~WHC207"@CCMAIL.PNL.GOV>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 1994 08:56:00 -0700

Regarding the replacement of "will" with "shall"...

I learned that technical people are taught to write specifications using the
word "shall" because this, supposedly, emphasizes that this is a requirement
and not a suggestion or a wish or some such. I have never quite understood
this. My main objection to "shall" is that I never hear it used in
everyday speech. My dictionary labels it archaic. I don't see the
distinction between saying, "The program shall xxxx..." and "The program
will xxx..." Does anyone know how this usage began or why it persists?

Not all tech writing is related to computer programs! Glenn
you are correct in your 1st sentence. In some fields the
word "shall" is defined as referring to a requirement and the
users of docs in those fields are taught that definition.
The use is something along the lines of:

The 450 volt AC power source shall be deenergized prior to
grabbing the copper contacts in your bare hands.

Yes the statement could be rephrased to use another word, but
what's the point? Every phrase can be worded differently.
It just so happens that this is a readily understandable
convention in some fields and "if it ain't broke, don't fix
it". Besides, we tech writers don't get to make many of the
rules, do we? :)

Rich <rxs459 -at- fep1 -dot- rl -dot- gov>

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