© 2010 Ugur Akinci
When a word is used frequently it starts losing its power. That’s why you should choose your words carefully and use them only when you really mean it.
“Must” is a word sometimes used too frequently in technical writing. Try eliminating must from your writing to communicate better with you readers.
ORIGINAL: “You must enter your last name into the ID field.”
BETTER: “Enter your last name into the ID field.”
ORIGINAL: “You must close the gate after the last vehicle leaves the base.”
BETTER: “Close the gate after the last vehicle leaves the base.”
ORIGINAL: “You must configure the Vacation Schedule first before assigning Work Permits.”
BETTER: “Configure the Vacation Schedule first before assigning Work Permits.”
One place where you can use “must” is in CAUTION, WARNING, or DANGER statements. And then, I’d advise you to print it in UPPER CASE letters.
CAUTION: “You MUST shut down Switch B before opening Panel D.”
WARNING: “The operator MUST check the voltage in Module A before replacing the filter. Otherwise, equipment can be damaged beyond repair.”
DANGER: “All visitors MUST wear fireproof protection suits before entering the Furnace Chamber!!!”
As a rule of thumb, I’d definitely use “must” if somebody can get hurt or equipment and property can get damaged. When the consequence of doing or neglecting something is very high and serious, then you should use “must” by all means. Otherwise leave it alone.