Re: appears vs is displayed

Subject: Re: appears vs is displayed
From: John Kohl <sasjqk -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 15:20:35 GMT

In article <1997Mar25 -dot- 093956+0000 -at- dburke -dot- tydac -dot- com>, Diane Burke
<dburke -at- RIGEL -dot- TYDAC -dot- COM> writes:
|> Robin M. Allen wrote:
|> >Hi ya'll:
|> >
|> >I'm in the middle of a raging debate among several tech writers
|> >about
|> >the use of "appears" vs "is displayed," e.g.:
|> >
|> >"Click Add and the Add Patient window is displayed."
|> >vs
|> >"Click Add and the Add Patient window appears."
|> >
|> >Even though it uses the passive voice, I personally prefer "is
|> >displayed." To me, "appears" sounds like it happens through
|> >magic. Any
|> >thoughts?
|>
|> I agree. We are not pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Neither does
|> anything disappear. It closes. Why not just: "Click Add. The Add
|> Patient window displays."
|>

NO-O-O-O! Sorry, but this is one of my pet peeves. "display" is a
transitive verb--you cannot (or should not) use it without a direct
object. I.e., you can display SOMETHING, or you can say that something
IS DISPLAYED, but if you use "display" in active voice without a direct
object, it refers to a bird (such as a peacock) displaying its feathers
to another bird in a mating ritual. (Look it up--that's the intransitive
definition in Webster's.)

You could argue that using "display" without a direct object has fallen
into common usage and that I should therefore not be so conservative. I
would argue in reply that a) such usage alienates people like myself,
and b) if your company ever uses machine translation (as I believe
most large companies EVENTUALLY will), the MT system will be expecting
words to be used in "standard" ways. If the MT terminology database
says that "display" is transitive (which it almost certainly will), then
the MT system is going to be "looking" for a direct object. And if it
doesn't find one, it is probably going to "choke" and spit out garbage.


John Kohl

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