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© 2010 Ugur Akinci
The verbs you use in your technical writing must agrees with the case of your subject(s).
The school [Main SUBJECT] where he graduated [auxiliary VERB] from is [Main VERB] the oldest in the country.
(School [singular] … is [third person singular])
VIOLATION of the rule:
The school where he graduated from are the oldest in the country.
(School … are?)
TIP: If you are using MS Word as your text editor, select Tools > Options from the main menu and select the “Check grammar with spelling” check box to flag such violations with a squiggly green line in that section of the sentence.
Here is why violating this principle can have bad consequences in technical documentation…
Imagine you’re writing the Security Procedures Handbook for a secure military facility. Your main goal as a technical writer is to make sure there are no mistakes in your document that would allow the bad guys infiltrate the facility or inadvertently cause one of the good guys get injured.
Imagine you write a procedure like the following:
“When the Red Light starts to flash, make sure one the following gates are closed and locked within 2 seconds:
– Gate A at the North Sector
– Gate B at the South Sector
– Gate C at the East Sector”
Of course the correct sentence should read “…one the following gates IS closed…”
If your reader is reading the sentence carefully, it’s clear that only ONE of the gates should be closed.
But if the reader is concentrating on the verb ARE, he or she can easily think that ALL the gates should be closed, especially in a panic situation.
If the Red Light is a fire alert, for example, you may cause people getting trapped and burned unnecessarily if the operator shuts down all the gates by mistake.
You can never guess in advance the kind of “unintended consequences” such a seemingly-simple grammatical error might cause.
So watch your grammar and write clean procedures that have no room for any misunderstandings.