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When I want to report that a function name needs to start with a prefix, I write the function name must be prefixed with; when I do so, the spelling and grammar checker suggests me to rewrite the phrase using prefixed to, or prefaced with.
How should I write the sentence?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

You are talking specifically about a prefix. You need to use the word prefix, because precede and preface do not have to mean that something is actually attached. Prefix is the only thing that means this. There is nothing wrong with prefixed with in this context. As a linguist who deals with prefixes and suffixes as a central part of my work, this phrase is something I use regularly. However, if you want an alternative, you could say something like:

The function name must have ### as a prefix.

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I hope this will be explanatory:

  • The string “__” must be prefixed to function names.
  • Function names must be prefixed by (or with) the string “__”.
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The complete sentence I write is the function name must be prefixed with the module name. Is there any differences between the sentence you used as example, and mine? – kiamlaluno Aug 23 '10 at 18:34
@kiamlaluno, your sentence is 100% grammatical. If you wanted to use to, it would have to be switched around: the module name must be prefixed to the function name. – nohat Aug 23 '10 at 19:10
Thank you for your reply. The spelling and checker sometimes confuses me; I don't know why, but I take the assumption it is always correct. ;-) – kiamlaluno Aug 23 '10 at 19:29

First of all, I believe the original usage "must be prefixed with" is the best available construction here, and you should ignore the software's recommendation.

That said, I would guess that your grammar checker is flagging that phrase for passive voice, even though its suggestions don't address that issue. To recast in active voice, you could either use something like what you have in your question -- "the function name must start with a prefix" -- or "you must prefix the function name with..."

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That is what I don't understand; if prefixed with is not correct because it is using the passive voice, then also its suggestions should not be correct, as they still use the passive voice. – kiamlaluno Aug 23 '10 at 19:32
@kiamlaluno: The only way for you to avoid passive voice here would be a clumsy construction like "The writer must use prefix [x] before function [y]." Sometimes passive voice is the most elegant solution. – Neil Fein Aug 23 '10 at 20:50
@Neil: I agree and have cleaned up my final answer a bit to reflect that more clearly. @kiamlaluno: My guess would be that, in addition to blanket attention to passive voice, the software raises a flag for usage of the phrase "prefixed with" because it can be awkwardly applied to contexts that have little or nothing to do with prefixes. Topics like software development and coding style frequently require usages that would be considered inelegant in other contexts, and it's often good (in any context) to take software recommendations with a grain of salt. – ninly Aug 24 '10 at 19:12

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