People can have intentions, but inanimate things such as documents, guidelines, and work cannot have intentions.

According to Webster, to intend – or to have an intention – means “to have in mind a purpose or goal.” That means, of course, that you must possess a mind in order to have a purpose or goal in it. Documents do not have minds, and neither do guidelines or work. And some people may have lost their minds, as well, but I digress….

Let’s take three bad examples I ran across today and correct them.

Bad Example #1:
It is not the intention of this document to replace the Contractor’s formal safety program.

This was listed under the heading “Purpose,” which is supposed to give the reason for the document. So let’s ask ourselves: Who has the mind with the purpose in it? Answer: The authors of the document, and by extension, the company management issuing these guidelines. So let’s indicate that in our example.

Corrected Example #1:
It is not our intention for this document to replace the Contractor’s formal safety program.

Bad Example #2:
These guidelines intend to compliment the API specifications.

Who is doing the intending? Not the guidelines, but the writers of the guidelines. You can use passive tense here to imply the intender. Plus, they are not giving flattering compliments to API, but supplementing their specs, so “complement” is the correct spelling.

Corrected Example #2:
These guidelines are intended [by us] to complement the API specifications.

Bad Example #3:
The intent of this work was to identify which thermal method would work the best in this

The work did not have the intent, but the guy doing the study had intentions for it.

Corrected Example #3
The intent for this work was to identify which thermal method would work the best in this field.

Make sure that you have a living subject with a brain as the one with intentions in your sentences, even if the living subject is implied. Don’t let your inanimate objects get carried away with their intentions!

Founding Father Quote of the Day:
“So confident am I in the intentions, as well as wisdom, of the government, that I shall always be satisfied that what is not done, either cannot, or ought not to be done.”
– Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and third President of the United States, 1743-1826


2 Responses to “Intentions”

  1. Thomas Jones Says:

    Greetings Jeanne-

    Under the heading of Purpose, is it really necessary to describe what is NOT one’s intention?

    Why not stick to the purpose rather than create a situation ( that is, discourse in the mind of the reader)?

    • petrocomputing Says:

      Dear Thomas:
      By mentioning what is NOT the intention under the heading of Purpose, it helps to clear up any misunderstandings and misapplications of the procedure spelled out in the document. This is very important, especially when safety is involved.
      – Jeanne

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