Grammar Errors in Software

Mar 14, 2019

We dream that software is crafted in art form, that its creators have done everything possible to make their software friendly and professional. Unfortunately, software’s creators are just humans subject to making common grammar mistakes I nitpick below.

Incorrect Pluralization

Are you guilty of writing code like this?

printf("You have %d new messages!\n", messages);

This only produces a correct sentence when the number of messages isn’t 1. A way to make this code more correct:

printf("You have %d new message%s!\n", messages, (messages != 1 ? "s" : ""));

I won’t call out any names but I saw this error in a popular iOS app I use daily.

Note localized software tends to exercise more care due to different languages having different number of pluralization forms. I believe that software that isn’t localized (many aren’t) should still care, which even includes the likes of command line utilties.

Using Nouns as Verbs

Ever see a website tellling you to “please login” or a mobile app informing you to “setup your account”?

Words like login or setup have no verb form. Alternatives here are “log in” and “set up.”

Aren’t you Fetching?

The way I know someone has been programming computers long enough is if “fetching” is in their vocabulary to mean retrieving. This actually confuses users because this form doesn’t exist in the dictionary the way programmers desire.

Fetching aside, this point applies to any too technical or made up term. I like poking fun at this word though.

edit: Actually, I stand corrected, and the definition of “fetching” does exist in the way programmers think. But I still recommend using a better term such as receiving.


Clearly, these are not all the grammar errors programmers make. I have not even touched upon user interface design.

I just wanted to point out common grammar errors that I see regularly which are pet peeves of mine. I exercise great care to avoid making these mistakes, so maybe you will too!