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© Ugur Akinci
A conditional sentence in technical writing tells the user to do something IF a certain condition is met.
That is, the CONDITION always comes FIRST.
But sometimes this fine point is neglected. In some if not all cases this may lead to catastrophic results.
For example, here is how NOT to write a conditional sentence:
“Press the release button IF the temperature is below 100 F degrees.”
Can you tell what’s wrong with this statement?
Take a few seconds to think the answer before reading mine please…
OK, the way it is written, the tendency is to press the release button since it comes first.
It is very possible for the user to press the button first BEFORE reading the condition.
If the temperature is not below 100 F degrees, then who knows, something undesirable might possibly follow.
So it’s important that the users should read the condition first, and if the condition is met, then proceed with the rest of the procedural task.
Thus I recommend you always use the “IF… THEN…” format when writing a conditional sentences.
The correct way to write above sample sentence is:
“IF the temperature is below 100 F degrees, THEN press the release button.”
Now no one will have the excuse of not seeing the IF condition coming since it’s the very first thing in the procedural statement.
Re-write the following conditional sentence by following the above instructions:
“Replace the filter immediately IF the pump pressure goes over 20 Pa.”
(NOTE: 1 Pascal (Pa) is a pressure unit defined as 1 Newton per square meter.)
(Photo courtesy of Tommaso Fornoni at Unsplash-dot-com)