Re: =Want= vs. =wish=

Subject: Re: =Want= vs. =wish=
From: Gwen Gall <ggall -at- CA -dot- ORACLE -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 20 Jul 1994 11:14:18 EDT

In-Reply-To: CNSEQ1:TECHWR-L -at- VM1 -dot- ucc -dot- okstate -dot- edu's message of 07-18-94 08:05

Thanks to all who have participated (and may still be as I write this) in the
discussion I initiated about "want" vs. "wish".

I liked, and agreed with, pretty much everything people said. However, most of
the comments were appropriate for procedural/user's guide type documents,
whereas the Software Requirements Specification (SRS) documents I was editing
were descriptive, and less procedurally oriented.

I had to take a developer's relatively disorganized and tentative description
of what a software module _will_ do, once created...and turn it into a more
organized and understandable document. For example, the developer might write
a dense paragraph describing what the inputs to a command may be, and I
had to "pull it apart", and number or bullet, as appropriate, so that it would
be easy to see what the intended functionality would be (and scan better).

Because these are not user guides that speak directly, in first person, to a
user, but are descriptions of both the software and the potential users, it
is correct and appropriate to speak in the third person about them. This is
where the want/wish thing came in, i.e.:

"Application developers may want/wish to use the fff function call to create
the widget, instead of..."

Compare this to:

"If you wish/want to print your file, select..."

Changing this to: "To print your file..."

is certainly preferrable, as suggested by (some) respondent(s), and is the
way I normally handle this in a user guide myself.

The intended readers of these SRS documents are people who will decide whether
or not to go ahead and develop the product, and _maybe_ potential users, all of
whom have a more formal relationship with the document than an end-user with
a user guide.

Perhaps it was this more formal nature, including the use of the third person,
that made me feel like changing all the "want"s to "wish"es. (And perhasp I
should have had more justification for doing it than just "feeling like it"!)

Having said all that, I still think the majority of comments were correct, and
I should have left the "want"s. Oh well, the documents have gone to California
now, and can't be revisited, so I'll just have to remember for next time!

Thanks to all,

Gwen (ggall -at- ca -dot- oracle -dot- com)

P.S. For anyone still reading this:

For many years, there was a sign above the boot rack in the entrance hall of
an Ottawa maternity hosipital that read, "Thank you for removing your
rubbers". I haven't seen it (although I live in Ottawa), and suspect it no
longer exists. I saw it reported in the Manchester Guardian International

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