I want to express the fact that a form needs to use two fields, one date field and one time field, to allow the user to enter a date and a time for a task. Should I say "Use separate fields" or "Use discrete fields"?

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    Use the everyday separate (this usage of discrete is relatively technical and formal, and doesn't really suit your context anyway, because it has slightly different nuances). – FumbleFingers Oct 25 '16 at 15:21
  • @FumbleFingers: please create an answer so I can mark it at such. Thank you for your help. – Dan Oct 25 '16 at 15:31
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    With many such pairs of similar words you can get useful info by googling word1 vs word2, but when I try that with discrete vs separate all I get is stuff telling me about the difference between discrete and discreet. But I don't fully buy @BigJ Pdog's point about discrete fields being more likely in "preset option" drop-down lists - I think it's more about being "non-continuous, non-overlapping". – FumbleFingers Oct 25 '16 at 15:50

Use separate. Discrete does not mean the same thing in this case. In fact, depending on how the form is to be used, it might mean something different. I would interpret a "discrete field" on a form as a field that only takes one of a number of options (such as selecting from a drop-down list).

  • I would agree if you were talking about values not fields. A drop-down would have a number of discreet values from which you could select. However there can be separate, discrete fields, all of which are drop-downs or not. – Andrew Oct 25 '16 at 16:24

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