Re: passive voice & appears / is displayed

Subject: Re: passive voice & appears / is displayed
From: Beryl Doane <BDoane -at- ENGPO -dot- MSMAILGW -dot- INTERMEC -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 12:03:00 PST

-----Part I---------
Thom Remington wrote:

>In the world of Standards, we follow standards (metastandards?) set by
>like ISO. We have key words. The words "must," "shall," and "will" denote
>that are mandatory. The words "should" and "may" denote things that are

In addition to ISO standards, there are legal implications. The words shall,
will, should,
might, and may have very specific legal meanings, especially in Requests for
Proposals, bids, and contracts.

If you are writing such documents, check with your legal staff when you
rewrite around
these words.

I don't think user manuals require as much restriction to meet legal
However, for warnings and cautions, you often need these words for accuracy.

For example:

"Caution: You may loose data if you select the Faster Integrity option and
a power
failure occurs while data is being processed."

"Caution: You will loose data if you accidently type "del a*.* " instead of
"del a:*.*"

In the first case, it is possible that the power failure can occur at a time
when your
data has already been processed and saved.

In the second case, DOS *will* erase your autoexec.bat file and other files
you are working from the C drive on a DOS machine, as is the context for
this example).

In body text and procedures, edit those extra words. If deleting the word
legally or
linguistically changes the meaning, put it back in.

-----Part II---------
Similarly, I'd like to get opinions on using "the foobar menu is displayed"
"the foobar menu appears."

My training and experience with PCs tells me that novices are often
by computers, and that "appears" is too much like magic. While "is
displayed" is
passive, the reader does not need to know who/what displays the menu.


Beryl Doane
bdoane -at- intermec -dot- com

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