I was reading a thread on a computer forum, and someone asked this question:
Quote:Your password should contain at least 6 characters
If you’re going to require it; don’t say “should”, say “must”.
This set off an interesting discussion on the semantics of should in this context. I’ve written about this before, so I was interested to hear how people interpreted the example.
Here is a sampling of the more serious posts on the thread:
A number of people pulled out dictionary definitions (Wikitionary, heh). And one person cited RFC 2119 (“Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate Requirement Levels”), which states:
SHOULD This word, or the adjective “RECOMMENDED”, mean that there may exist valid reasons in particular circumstances to ignore a particular item, but the full implications must be understood and carefully weighed before choosing a different course.
All of which goes to the original poster’s point—the message was ambiguous and should (ha) have been written with must. For those of us who don’t keep a mental catalog of RFC recommendations, the more accessible Microsoft style guide says:
In documentation, in error messages, in any context where the message needs to be clear and you aren’t there to help the reader understand, avoid should when you mean must.