I encounter a phrase: "I'd rather not see abbreviations in method names".

I wonder if it is a polite way of expressing yourself? If I were to use it wouldn't I sound like I'm a boss?

  • I think you're quite right that I'd rather not see X has become idiomatically established as a slightly roundabout way for someone in authority to instruct his subordinates to Get rid of X [because I'm the boss, and I don't like it]. From the other side of that divide, obviously it's usually inappropriate for the subordinate to tell the boss that he doesn't like something (who cares?). So what the underling says is more likely to be something like It might be better not to have X (or would be better if he's feeling "uppity"). Feb 11, 2016 at 14:49

2 Answers 2


Direct commands/imperatives in English can be considered "harsh" unless the people involved know each other very well or at least have some familiarity.

Sometimes situations call for direct commands even in polite situations, but in dealing with a team politeness is an obvious way to demonstrate respect in a team environment.

There's many, many ways to "soften" them or make them more polite, and expressing a command as a preference is one way to do that.

Don't use abbreviations in method names.

I prefer not to use abbreviations in method names.

However, the second sentence is you directly expressing a preference, but not really making it clear that anything beside you should be affected. So it sounds like you're trying to "drop a hint" and might come off as a bit too "weak."

To make this a bit stronger, but still polite, you have to express it in such a way that it affects everyone:

I prefer we not use abbreviations in method names.

I'd rather not see abbreviations in method names (assuming everyone sees the same method names)

Assuming one can speak for "we" is definitely a "boss" thing and stronger than the second sentence. The second sentence sounds less "boss"-like.

So overall you have the right idea.


Mostly agree with LawrenceC. (Ooh, that rhymes.) A slightly different take, though:

"I'd rather" is an expression of personal preference. It indicates that you like one thing more than another.

It is often used in a literal sense. "I'd rather eat beef than chicken." "I'd rather spend my vacation with family than at an amusement park." Etc.

Such a preference could be purely a matter of taste -- like my beef and chicken example. Or it could be a statement about what the speaker thinks is an objectively good idea. If someone says, "I'd rather use an object-oriented approach to this problem", he probably doesn't mean that as a matter of taste, but rather that he thinks it's a better solution.

As LawrenceC says, when people in authority give orders, they often try to "tone them down", to make them sound less commanding. There are three ways to do this that come to my mind: add polite words, express it as a question, or to express it as a personal preference.

So maybe the boss has the authority to say:

Hey, you! Start a new pot of coffee! Now!

But that is unnecessarily commanding and rude, at least to most American ears. So the person in authority might add polite words, like "please":

Please start a new pot of coffee.

He might express it as a question:

Would you mind making a new pot of coffee?

Or he could phrase it as a preference:

I'd appreciate it if you could make a new pot of coffee.

Without more context, it's not possible to say whether the statement you quote is a literal statement of personal preference, or a politely-worded command.

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