[PATCH doc] use "cannot" consistently

Martin Sebor msebor@gmail.com
Wed Mar 15 15:40:00 GMT 2017

On 03/15/2017 05:00 AM, Richard Kenner wrote:
>> First, I agree that the less formal language is becoming more
>> acceptable.  Some style guides explicitly allow contractions,
>> but others advise against them.  The technical specifications
>> that significant parts of GCC aim to conform to, and those I
>> happen  to work with the most closely (the C, C++, and POSIX
>> standards), avoid them.  The IEEE Editorial Style Manual
>> recommends against using them.  The author of Engineer's Guide
>> to Technical Writing, Kenneth Budinski, equates them with slang.
> How old are those documents?  More recently, see

They're all the latest versions (C++ 2011, C++ 2017, and the IEEE
Editorial Style Manual is the 2016 update).

But to get a more representative sample I've surveyed some other
references I have sitting on my hard drive.  I found none that
uses contractions:

   ARM Compiler Toolchain 4.1 Reference (2011)
   Clang 5,0 Compiler UserÂ’s Manual(*) (2017)
   DWARF Debugging Information Format Version 5 (2017)
   HP aCC 6.20 C Programmer's Guide(**)(2008)
   IBM Power ISA Version 3.0 (2015)
   IBM XL C/C++ for Linux, V13.1 Compiler Reference (2014)
   Intel C++ Compiler 17.0 Developer Guide and Reference (2016)
   Intel 64 and IA-32 Architectures Software DeveloperÂ’s Manual (2011)
   MIPS64 Architecture for Programmers (2010)
   Oracle Developer Studio 12.5 C/C++ Users Guide (2016)

   [*] Except for a few instances of don't.
   [**] "Can't" used in comments in coding examples.

>     http://www.plainlanguage.gov/howto/guidelines/bigdoc/writeContract.cfm
>     https://lawyerist.com/61487/is-it-time-for-contractions-in-legal-writing/
> The latter references other documents, which advocate for more use of
> contractions even in formal writing.

These are legal guides, obviously not relevant in the context
of technical writing.

>> I personally don't feel too strongly about it, but the change
>> seems like an opportunity to improve not just the style of
>> the manual but also increase its consistency.  I could see
>> one being indifferent to such changes but I have trouble
>> understanding how they could be viewed as the wrong direction.
>> What is your rationale against it and what would you consider
>> the right direction for the manual?
> I think it's the wrong direction because I'd be in favor of gradually
> *introducing* contractions into to the manual instead of a change that
> eliminates them.  I wouldn't be against a change that went in the other
> direction (used contractions consistently), but it would be good a large
> change, so I'm not advocating for doing that, but just instead using
> contractions in all new material and when modifying old material for
> other reasons.

Interesting.  I don't share that view and clearly neither do
writers of any of the technical specifications I listed above
but I will go along with whatever the documentation maintainers
think is appropriate or preferable for GCC.


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