Use of should, must, etc.

Subject: Use of should, must, etc.
From: Kay Schimmelman <kay -at- ZYCOR -dot- LGC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Jun 1994 11:29:17 CDT

I usually don't have much to say in this list, but I feel I must jump in
here. I haven't followed this thread very attentively, so forgive me if
someone has already said this.

Using words like "should" when you really mean "must" is to use words
inexactly. If your reader must do something to make something work, the
correct word is "must." This is not being parental, it is being exact.
"Should" implies that there is some choice, but the choice should not be
that the program (or other product) does not operate correctly if the
reader doesn't do whatever it is.

I had an argument about this same subject with a software developer a
few years ago. He was insisting on using "should." I said, "Well, what
happens if you don't do it? Will the program work?" and he said, "No."
"Then," I answered, "You must do it. It is not advice, it is something
that must be done." He said, "When I see the word "must" I feel like
picking up my computer terminal and smashing it against the wall." I
answered, "That sounds like a personal problem to me."

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