Zero population growth

Subject: Zero population growth
From: Tammy Hale <tammyh -at- FGM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 13 Jan 1995 11:59:51 -0500


I recently edited a software user manual that frequently discussed
"populating" certain fields in the window. It was the first time I'd come
across this use of the word in a technical document about software.

The verb "populate" bothers me because it implies some sort of reproduction
is occurring, which has an odd meaning in a user manual. It is also vague,
especially when used with the passive voice. I always wonder just who or
what is doing all this populating.

In the user manual I recently edited, I rewrote sentences like,

"The field is populated with a value when a value is selected from the
pulldown menu"

to read:

"When you select a value from the pulldown menu, that value appears in the

My Merriam Webster defines populate as "to have place in: inhabit."
Technically, I guess it's correct. However, sounds to me like someone got
carried away with the thesaurus and the term ended up "populating" in all
the wrong places.

Maybe your company uses the term a lot, but I don't think its use
widespread. On the other hand, even its use *is* widespread, it still
sucks--which is a good argument for getting rid of it.

Good luck,

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