TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Son of Ensure vs. Make Sure From:John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 27 Oct 1995 13:42:00 PDT
>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
1. Procedures should tell people what to do, not merely hint at problems that
may result if someone is not "sure" of something.
2. Ensure and make sure are semantically equivalent so which you use is
purely a stylistic choice. Better still, don't use either because
they are semantically equivalent at zero in terms of telling people
what to do.
3. Good procedures don't use ensure or make sure. They tell the user exactly
the actions they need to take. In other words, instead of "ensure/make
you are off line before selecting this option," a good procedure would
step such as this first:
99. "Verify that you are off line by clicking on File and noting
that Start is highlighted.
99. "Click on File and note that "Start" is highlighted.
and perhaps a substep
99a. IF Start is NOT highlighted,
THEN click on exit.
before proceeding to step 100 (which tells you how to select the
you need to be off-line to use).
John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)
The Bill of Rights--The Original Contract with America
Accept no substitutes. Beware of imitations. Insist on the genuine articles.