Re: Periods After Whole Numbers etc.

Subject: Re: Periods After Whole Numbers etc.
From: Ian White <ian -at- IFWTECH -dot- DEMON -dot- CO -dot- UK>
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 1996 13:48:01 +0100

WRONECKI Frederic DG wrote:
> Ian White wrote :

>>> Programming languages often do contaminate written English. In one
>>> software manual written by the creator of the program, every sentence
>>> that begins with "If" contains a matching "then".

>That doesn't sound absurd... It is recommended by the Information Mapping
>method.
>It helps the reader make a clear distinction between the condition that must
>be fulfilled and the action to take.

Certainly: the original purpose of the rigid IF...THEN construction is
to ensure that even a machine can understand it. But we human readers
react badly to writing that is mechanical and never varies, especially
if there's a lot of it.

If the first language of the intended readers is not English, so that
clarity becomes a priority overriding all others, or if the sentence
structure is becoming a little more complicated (like this), then
there's some justification for using "then". If not, a simple comma is
enough.

The skill of tech writing is to balance all the priorities, sentence by
sentence, and to judge what will be best for the readers. One thing is
certain: no rigid rule will always be the best choice.

Ian White | IFW Technical Services, Abingdon, England
| Clear English for high-technology companies
| http://www.ifwtech.demon.co.uk


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