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Subject: RE: [office-comment] Naughty words and phrases (ODF all versions)

Dennis hi 

> I am wondering whether, in some contexts, whether the proper 
> observation is to use can and cannot as an expression of 
> possibility rather than as a prescription.

Yes, that is precisely how they should be used in documents following
ISO/IEC conventions.


	shall = has to

	should = ought to ("it is recommended that")

	may = is allowed to

	can = is able to

So, as you say, "can" is "an expression of possibility rather than as a

> This came to mind 
> with regard to possible restatement of "[c]ustom metadata 
> elements may only occur in OpenDocument extended documents" 
> (in which it would be a note if can only were used, I 
> suppose).  Since the statement is true by definition of the 
> document targets, it struck me that "can only" would serve.

I think the problem is that "may only" is used to mean different things
throughout ODF. Here, actually, I think it's borderline okay except
there is a risk of non-English speakers thinking such document may
contain *only* such metadata elements!

So, later on we find "conforming processors should not interpret the
element's content, but may only preserve its content", where the only
doesn't qualify the "may" but the "content" (I think).

Generally, I think using "only" with these verbal forms is problematic
and is a "bad smell" that usually indicates something rotten beneath.

IMHO, the *real* solution to the problem is to delete this sentence
about custom metadata here, and put something in the conformance clause,
where this more properly belongs, like: "Documents that contain custom
metadata are Extended Documents". As it is, we have a critical
information about conformance floating many pages distant from the
conformance clauses.
> I am not suggesting this remedies the case you identified.  I 
> am asking if you can clarify any considerations that you give 
> to using can/cannot along with shall/shall not, should/should 
> not, and may/need not.

Unfortuately there are few rules, and this largely boils down to
judgement and taste for each case!

I think "shall" is underused in ODF and "should" is systematically
abused. I hope to make a substantial posting here on this in due course.

- Alex.

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