Notes from the Editor – March 2016
When to use the imperative form of a verb
In some texts, for example, sets of instructions, web content, or advertising copy, it is more natural in English to address the reader directly using the imperative form of the verb. The source language of the text you are translating or editing may literally say that “you can” or “you may” do something in certain situations. However, it may not necessarily mean that you are allowed or able to do that thing, but that it is the thing you do (or should do) in case such situation occurs.
Take a look at the example below. See how the first version implies what you are able to do, though the content is actually about what you should do to achieve a certain task. It is an instruction. Imperative form of the verb serves this purpose well.
Similarly, in advertising copy, we want to create direct and dynamic communication between a company and its customer. It is clearer, more powerful, and easier to understand if we deliver the intended message directly, devoid of any redundancies.
So, for the example below, instead of saying “You can fly” or “You may fly,” it is better to use the imperative form of the verb and say “Fly,” which is more personal and punchy.