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In a style guide for writers by Apple there are a lot of sentences like

  • alternate Don't use when you mean alternative.
  • America, American Refers to both North and South America. Don't use when you mean United States.

These sentences don't look correct to me; I think they should be changed to

  • alternate Don't use it when you mean alternative.
  • America, American Refers to both North and South America. Don't use them when you mean United States.

On the other hand, since the style guide is written like a dictionary, it is probably OK to have sentences with special (ungrammatical) omissions.

I am wondering whether it is OK to have such omissions in technical manuals that are not written like dictionaries; in other words, in technical manuals that are written as prose.

2 Answers 2

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Technical writing often adopts special rules that differ from normal English to better suit special needs, which works as long as it’s consistent within the document and with other documents of the same style/type. The idea is that the time it takes a new reader to learn how to use the document will be outweighed by the time they save in all future experiences.

In this particular example, the object of the sentence is implied by context and/or formatting. You will frequently see this in lists or tables, with dictionaries being a prominent example.

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These are instructions. Instructions, orders etc are often abbreviated this way.

Think of the warning on the side of a bottle - "Do Not Drink". It doesn't need to say "do not drink this", because it's obvious that this is the contents of the bottle it is written on.

Likewise, in your example, there is no need for the pronoun because it is written next to an emboldened word which is part of a list of words.

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