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Subject:Re: Redundancy & obscurity patrol -Reply From:"Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM> Date:Tue, 16 Jan 1996 11:07:52 -0800
At 8:52 AM 1/16/96, Bill Sullivan wrote in response to Cathy Quinones:
>One favorite is the phrase "need to." I once had a professor who
>liked to say you don't need to do anything in this world except die,
>but listening to people talk today I think nobody knows that.
>Frequently, I find that the faint-hearted use "need to" when "should"
>(pace Susan Gallagher) or "ought" or "must" is tighter. A person may
>be able to pass it off in conversation, but in the precise confines
>of technical writing I think its use is always worth a second look.
>"Need to," in my opinion, is informal, and ok in its place, but there
>are times when I prefer the formal, or else I would do away with the
>entire concept. You write: Choose Cut from the Edit menu. You do
>not write: You need to choose Cut from the Edit menu.
I've worked under many a style guide that shuned "should" -- the
reasoning was if it's something the user *should* do, just tell
them to do it. Consequently, I've disciplined myself to limit
*should* instructions (and I don't think I've ever used "need to"
or "ought" -- at least past the first draft). I must admit to using
"must" on occasion, though. (So basically, I agree with you about
the "need to", I'm just not quite as liberal on the "should".)
Another red-flag word I though of yesterday just after I hit the
send button is "will". I sometimes get sloppy with tense in the
first draft, so I mark every occurrence of "will" and do my best
to change future to present tense wherever I can.
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com