Re: Preposition at Beginning or End?

Subject: Re: Preposition at Beginning or End?
From: doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2007 14:26:20 -0700



> Which sentence do you prefer:
 
 
I wouldgive you my answer to your burning question, but questions like
this make me feel restless and experimental: the word choice and the
placement of prepositions in the two examples is a question about ephemera,
the sort of rule-bound issue that occupies writers' time but isn't productive
enough to warrant to warrant much consideration. It makes me want a
work-around, a different design, not just a choice of wording.  One
work-around possibility, especially for non-novice audiences, is to simply
show a capture of the GUI/form, accompanied by a little table for field name,
field description, suggested value, ...  If you get my drift, the example you
gave uses rather arbitrary prepositions and action words to create a grid
around the meaningful bits of the instruction, so why not just put the
instructive bits into a generic grid that doesn't require the fiddling and
parsing?
 
 
> Sentence No. 1: "From the Country drop-down list, select USA."
> Sentence No. 2: "Select USA from the Country drop-down list."
 
 
I agree with the writers who noted that #1 is pro forma correct--we don't tell
the user what to do until we have first  advised them of any important
considerations.  In this case, there are no important considerations, so I
would go with #1 for the sake of consistency with instructions that do have.
The consistency helps train the reader to know what to expect from your
written instructions, so I don't really agree that the two alternative
sentences are both right choices, equivalent, or whatever.


> To me, the first example is more logical: first, you tell them where to
> go, then you tell them what to do. However, the second example is more
> conversational (resembles spoken English).
 
 
Your audience is reading in a vacuum.  The assumed context of spoken words is
a rich environment where gestures, expressions, intonation and other factors
contribute to the correct interpretation of meaning.  Your example isn't
especially subject to misinterpretation, but in general, the way you speak is
not a very discriminating way to model good instructional writing.
 
 
>
> It sounds totally wrong to begin with a preposition here--but not so
> wrong in Sentence No. 1 above.
 
 
On first reading, I think #1 evokes an ironic, subliminal micro-suggestion of
being from the country (cp, city boy).  For me, at least, it doesn't hijack
the meaning of the instruction, but does seem familiar, and maybe a little
more coherent because of that.
 
 
Ned Bedinger
doc -at- edwordsmith -dot- com
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References:
Capitalization question - Microsoft Manual of Style: From: Rob Hudson
Re: Capitalization question - Microsoft Manual of Style: From: Dana Worley
Preposition at Beginning or End?: From: Keith Hansen

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