RE: To decrypt or decipher

Subject: RE: To decrypt or decipher
From: Paul Branchaud <paul -at- zeroknowledge -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 11:27:30 -0500

I hope to heck that "decrypt" and "decryption" exist! My docs use those
words rather extensively.

Having taken a quick peek at your company's website, I am guessing that your
question deals with specific instances of using a key to remove a document's
encryption ("decrypt the document" or "the decryption process transforms the
document"). Decipher and deciphering have, according to my OED and
Webster's, similar meanings to decrypt and decryption. However, I believe
that decrypt is the commonly accepted way of describing the process of
"descrambling" encrypted data.

When something is not encrypted, it is often referred to as "plaintext".
When you apply any type of encryption, it is then referred to as
"ciphertext" (at least, the crypto folks I work with speak in these terms).

You should also consider the word you use to describe the secret encoding of
the data that you want to decrypt or decipher. I suspect you refer to the
encoding process as encrypt or encryption (can't say I have ever seen cipher
or ciphering used in that way, but I'm no expert). If this is the case, you
should use decrypt or decryption, as decipher or deciphering is a bit too
large a mental leap to make. Using the prefix of en- or de- with crypt or
cryption gives you consistency and helps your readers associate the two

Decipher, according to my OED, has a second meaning that I believe is the
more familiar one: "determine the meaning of (anything obscure or unclear)".

Use my advice the same way you would any power tool: with care and sound

--------------------Zero-Knowledge: Nothing Personal--------------------
Paul "RTFM Guy" Branchaud (mailto:paul -at- zeroknowledge -dot- com)
Lead Technical Writer, Zero-Knowledge
PGP Fingerprint: 19D9 5519 BC71 E926 82AA B8C2 0561 B128 9F3E 84E3

Never express yourself more clearly than you think. -- Niels Bohr

-----Original Message-----
From: tudsbery -at- matranet -dot- com [mailto:tudsbery -at- matranet -dot- com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 01, 1999 10:47 AM
Subject: To decrypt or decipher

Do the verb decrypt and the noun decryption exist? Or should I use "to
decipher" and "deciphering".

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