[thelist] Site Review - http://wizardev.ca/

Chris Marsh Chris.Marsh at Callserve.com
Thu Jun 2 10:02:44 CDT 2005


Much application of language is based on opinion; what follows is mine.

> > On Privacy Policy page:
> > - and to my ear "may" indicates some uncertainty, as if you may  
> > respond if you feel like it - I'd write "so that I can  
> > respond" (this goes for the contact page too)
> This is an subtle point of English, but in fact "may" is correct  
> here.  "Can" would also be grammatically correct, but "may" is the  
> more polite of the two.  With "may" you are essentially asking  
> permission to do something, with "can" you are discussing the  
> physical ability to do so.

Permission is inherent. The user is being told "...you will need to disclose
your [personal info]". You are telling the user the means by which they may
enter into a dialogue with you. By utilising the means that you offer, they
are accepting your terms. That is why it's called a Privacy Statement, and
not a Privacy Discussion.

> It's the same difference between "May I help you?" and "Can I help  
> you?"  It's entirely possible that you _can_ help them, but 
> that they  
> don't want help.  "May I" recognizes this, while "Can I" does not.

This is not relevant in the context of the given sentence.

If you ask someone "may I help you", you are asking if they require help. If
you ask "can I help you", you are asking their opinion of your ability to
help them.

"...you will need to disclose your email address or phone number so that i
may respond to your request."

In the sentence above, you are mixing the two cases. You are requiring the
user to do something so you should be explaining that this requirement will
enable you to respond. The second part of the sentence is the explanation.
Possibly a more accurate construction would be as follows:

"...you will need to disclose your email address or phone number to enable
me to respond to your request."

Courtesy is good, but not at the expense of accuracy. Manners exist to
remove ambiguity, not the other way around.

YMMV, IMHO, HAND etc etc.



Chris Marsh

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