"The dialog box will appear"

Subject: "The dialog box will appear"
From: Geoff Hart <geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
Date: Fri, 21 Mar 1997 13:17:37 -0600

At least a year ago, we discussed how to communicate the
results of an action to software users. The debate focused
on two alternatives: "The dialog box will appear" vs. "The
dialog box appears". The main logic brought to bear against
the former was that it doesn't tell users _when_ the dialog
box will appear, and moreover, it's one word longer than it
needs to be; the arguments against the latter were that the
dialog box may not appear immediately, and moreover, many
readers stumble over the verb and wonder "appears to do
what?"

At the time, there was a slight majority in favor of
"appears", but I'd like to revisit this debate and get some
more feedback on the issue. Are we choosing one over the
other based on urban legend, or based on established,
successful techniques? I'm particularly interested in
feedback based on usability studies or published cognitive
psychology work... "facts", not just personal preferences.
(Please provide references, if any!) Because a large
majority of personal opinions in favor of one alternative
would comprise a mini-usability test of sorts, personal
opinions are also welcome, but I'd also like to be somewhat
objective about this if at all possible.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
Disclaimer: Speaking for myself, not FERIC.

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