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In a CMS I am using, when a user with the right permission tries to delete a comment that is not found, the CMS outputs the following warning message:

There do not appear to be any comments to delete, or your selected comment was deleted by another administrator.

Is the sentence correct?
Is it the accepted way to write such sentences? What is the difference with it seems there are no comments to delete, or there are no comments to delete?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I see nothing wrong with that sentence. It explains what the issue is and informs the user that the comment cannot be deleted because it doesn't exist.

You could write that sentence any number of different ways, but I don't really see any advantages/disadvantages between any of the possible options really.

If it was a CMS I wrote, it would probably say something like this:

The comment you attempted to delete no longer exists. It may have been deleted by another administrator.

To answer the second half of your question, the only difference between the two snippets you provides is certainty. The first version does not state definitively that there are no comments, only that it appears that way. The second one states simply that there are none.

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I have to say that "it seems there are not comments" in that context strikes me as awkward at best and sounds non-native. – Kosmonaut Aug 25 '10 at 14:39
@Kosmonaut: That was a typo from my part; I corrected that sentence. – kiamlaluno Aug 25 '10 at 14:46
@Kosmonaut: agreed. I went with the assumption that it was a typo and was supposed to be "it seems there are no comments". – Mark Embling Aug 25 '10 at 14:46
I guess it's the sentence schema that confuses me; I am used to read (I am not saying the following phrases are correct in the context I defined in the question) there should not be, there could be, there will be, there was, etc. – kiamlaluno Aug 25 '10 at 14:51
I think the structure is fine, if a little vague. My version essentially says the same thing but is a bit more definitive about it. You could argue that the first half of the sentence is too vague ("... do not appear to be any comments to delete") when you are specifically referring to a single comment, but I think that is probably just nit-picking. – Mark Embling Aug 25 '10 at 14:58

The sentence is grammatically correct.

However, the meaning may not be exactly what you have in mind. It means the same as:

Apparently, there are not any comments to delete, or you selected ...

If your application knows that there are no comments to delete, then there's no need to say "apparently" nor "appear to be". Moreover, it can confuse the user.

And if the system is displaying "appear to be" because users may get the message in two conditions (1. no comments to delete and 2. other admin deleted the selected comments), then it should actually display two separate messages depending on the condition:

  1. There are not any comments to delete.

  2. Another administrator has already deleted the selected comment.

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To address your final point, the reason this message is merged into one (rather than displaying the appropriate message based on what actually happened) is because from a software point of view, you will likely never know. If something did exist but no longer doesn't, you can't tell why. You can however make a likely suggestion (another user deleted it). I've faced this problem from the developer side before, hence the suggestion in my answer :) – Mark Embling Aug 25 '10 at 14:49
Then again, the app may be trying to be friendly, or allow for one message to be generated for multiple levels of permissions, so that what for one users "seems" to be correct, may not be for another. – warren Aug 25 '10 at 17:11

What appears to be the problem with it? That it's unnecessarily pedantic. Just say "There are no comments to delete".

The other problem I see is a logical one with the "or": if someone else has deleted the comment, there are also no comments left to delete (for you), so the first case includes the second.

Oh, and "There are no comments to delete" would be better suited as a reaction to "Delete all comments". A more appropriate reaction to "Delete this comment" could be "I don't have this comment."

So how about:

The comment you are trying to delete could not be found. Maybe another administrator has already deleted it.

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