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Re: capitalization of error messages and option descriptions

From: Jim Meyering
Subject: Re: capitalization of error messages and option descriptions
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2011 17:42:09 +0100

Bruno Haible wrote:
>> # Error messages should not start with a capital letter
> Why should error messages not start with a capital letter?
> Often error messages should be translatable, and when they are, the
> guidelines from GNU gettext [1] apply:
>   "Use entire sentences."

Many (most?) of the diagnostics in e.g., coreutils are not complete
sentences, and as such should not start with a capital or end
with a period.

I think this quote from the GCS is at the origin:



   The string MESSAGE should not begin with a capital letter when it
follows a program name and/or file name, because that isn't the
beginning of a sentence.  (The sentence conceptually starts at the
beginning of the line.)  Also, it should not end with a period.

I'm quite ambivalent about this rule, often disable it, and
would not mind removing it altogether.

> And in normal English style, sentences start with a capital letter.
> For instance, in GNU gettext I have error messages that consist
> of several sentences:
>   Input files contain messages in different encodings, %s and %s among 
> others.\n\
>   Converting the output to UTF-8.\n\
>   To select a different output encoding, use the --to-code option.\n\
> It's normal that these sentences start with a capital letter, no?
> Then I also have error messages consisting of a single sentence:
>   two different charsets \"%s\" and \"%s\" in input file
>   input file `%s' doesn't contain a header entry with a charset specification
> Maybe I should actually change all these error messages to start with a
> capital letter, for consistency? Or only those that are entire sentences,
> with a subject and a verb?
> Somewhat related: What was the point of lowercasing the sentences in the
> option descriptions of the usage message of 'bootstrap'?
> Bruno
> [1] 
> http://www.gnu.org/software/gettext/manual/html_node/Preparing-Strings.html
> [2]
> http://git.savannah.gnu.org/gitweb/?p=gnulib.git;a=commitdiff;h=54c0573c2f6200b8b9c88a026c7bc8cfe44e0403

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