Re: Grammar Question: Ensure or Make

Subject: Re: Grammar Question: Ensure or Make
From: Joe Williams <jwilliams -at- SAMS -dot- MCP -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 27 Oct 1995 10:14:25 -0500

Question #1:

"Make sure" is idiomatic, but in this context I would prefer it to the
more formal "ensure." It is my understanding that human's don't
generally ensure--processes or agents ensure on behalf of humans.
("The seat belt ensured that I would not fly through the windshield.")
You might consider "make certain" if "make sure" is too informal.

Question #2:

I copy edit computer books for a very large publishing company, and I
have edited dozens of books about Windows applications. I have never
heard of a Windows-specific writing style. My company has its own
style sheet, which specifies what we uppercase, what we italicize, how
we delineate a sequence of menu choices, and so on. Our style hasn't
generated much dissension from our authors, our readers, or from
Microsoft. Admittedly, none of our products function as official
documentation, but our books are utilized by millions of PC users who
prefer them to the manuals that come with the software.

I suggest you read a few Microsoft manuals to learn the basics: how
they format filenames (upper or lowercase), how they delineate hot
keys or a sequence of menu choices ("From the Tools menu, choose Print
| Setup"), how they typeset user input, and so on; but if the client
doesn't have a style sheet, you needn't be wedded to Microsoft's. (We

Joe Williams
jwilliams -at- sams -dot- mcp -dot- com

Blatant plug: When I'm not disguised as a mild-mannered copy editor
for a major Midwestern publishing company, I'm the globetrotting
author of a new book called "Entertainment on the Net," which surveys
the breadth of movie-music-and-television sites on the Internet. It's
actually quite funny, and although I don't make a nickel in royalties
from the thing, I'm sure it would make a thoughtful stocking stuffer
for that upcoming holiday you've been hearing so much about. It's
available at a mall near you or from Que Publishing (which is not the
company for whom I am an editor.)

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: Grammar Question: Ensure or Make
Author: "William J. Hartzer" <William -dot- Hartzer -at- EMC2-TAO -dot- FISC -dot- COM> at Internet
Date: 10/26/95 5:21 PM


It seems that I came across a little dispute about some grammar in some
documentation I am working on for a Windows software product. One developer
says that I should use the term 'MAKE SURE' and another insists that I use
'ENSURE' in the following sentence. And still another insists that there is a
specific type of writing style that must be used when documenting a Windows PC
software product.

Should I use:

"Make sure that you are off-line prior to selecting this option."


"Ensure that you are off-line prior to selecting this option."

Also, is there such a thing as a writing style that must be used whenever
Windows PC software products are being documented? This developer claims
that this Windows PC software product writing style is MUCH different than the
writing style I'm supposed to use when documenting an IBM Mainframe product
or even a Macintosh software product.

What do you think? Let me know via private e-mail about the grammar question,
but I think the 'writing style' topic is appropriate for posting to the whole

Bill Hartzer
Technical Writer
Fischer International Systems Corporation
Naples, Florida USA

<William -dot- Hartzer -at- EMC2-TAO -dot- FISC -dot- COM>
"The Mac is NOT a toy."

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