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I'm hitting a problem where we're using forms of the word final with three different meanings:

  1. Final evaluation, as opposed to midterm evaluation
  2. Final version, as opposed to draft version
  3. Finalizing (where an administrator reviews a final version of a final evaluation and approves it for viewing by the evaluatee)

Where this becomes really confusing is when I want to tell the evaluator that he needs to save his evaluation as a final version, not a draft version, before it will be submitted for finalization. (If it matters, this is a change from how it worked previously: they used to have to keep the evaluations as drafts, and the administrator would do both the saving-as-final-version and finalizing. Yes, it was even more confusing.)

Usage 1 is a term of art, so I kind of have to stick with it. For usage 3, I can come up with sorta-acceptable substitutes like review or approval. But I'm totally stuck on usage 2. I can't find any antonyms for this meaning of draft, and none of the synonyms for final seem unambiguous enough to use on a submit button. (The buttons currently say "Save Final" and "Save Draft".) Help?

Context: this is part of an online evaluation system, i.e. html forms in a web browser. The process, roughly:

  1. At the end of the semester (or trimester or quarter), the teacher is notified that final evaluations are due. This use of "final" is an established term of art which I can't change.
  2. The teacher fills out the evaluation form. If he can't finish in one sitting, he can save a draft and come back to it later.
  3. After the teacher is satisfied with his evaluation, he saves a non-draft version. This is where I'm looking for a word that isn't "final".
  4. At some point after most of the finals have been submitted, an administrator reviews them, possibly changes some final grades (mostly situations where a student didn't complete something that is outside of the teacher's purview), then finalizes them. This part could also use some better vocabulary.
  5. After step 4 has been completed, and not at any point before, the evaluated student can look at her final evaluation to see how she did.
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Context please!! (You mention "buttons" at the end, so I guess you're trying to find the appropriate language to use on a UI, but you never bother to mention that.) –  Pitarou Jan 19 '12 at 23:20
@Pitarou: edited, but I'm puzzled - why does it matter that this is a UI, rather than, say, a paper evaluation form? (Not that it makes sense to talk about "save as draft" on paper...) –  Marthaª Jan 19 '12 at 23:27
The short answers is: the more you give us, the more we have to go on. As you said, the terms you use implied that it was a computer system, but please don't make us guess! As for what difference it might make: In my answer I suggested the terms "editable" and "locked". That wouldn't make sense if it was a paper-based system. –  Pitarou Jan 19 '12 at 23:41
The counterpart of 'Save As Draft' button is the 'Submit' button, after which we can no longer edit the file. –  Kris Jan 20 '12 at 14:59
@Kris: hmm, you may have something there... –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 15:03

5 Answers 5

How about:

  1. Draft
  2. Pre-approval
  3. Approved

(I suggest you avoid using Approval and Approved together because they are visually similar.)

If there are functional differences at different stages of the workflow, you could describe the document in those terms. This helps the user understand what's going on. E.g.:

  1. Editable
  2. Locked
  3. Approved
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Yes, I think that in a case like this it doesn't really matter too much exactly what the names are so long as the "progression" is clear. The people who need to reference it are hardly going to take the particular names as "definitions" - they'll be working within a system where the formal definitions of the three stages are likely to be easily accessible and spelled out in detail. On that basis I slightly prefer the first sequence, because no-one could ever jumble it up. –  FumbleFingers Jan 19 '12 at 23:43

The instances in which the verbs are causing conflict is because the people who directly benefit from having done each stage regard each stage as their particular "final" version.

Instead of naming the stages after the verb "finalize", try naming them after what they create. For instance:

  • Evaluaton of midterm
  • Unreviewed midterm grade
  • Peer-reviewed midterm grade (10 peers)
  • Draft midterm-grade (1 tutor)
  • Final midterm-grade (university approval)

I'm making some of this up because I don't know your process, but that's half the point. Naming things after the process which creates them is like calling a child a birth. You can name processes as an interim necessity of progress, but if you measure them as the results of progress then all you get is people gaming systems to do the things you told them to without the goals.

For those people who think this might not be anything to do with the English Language, I heartily recommend reading Metaphors We Live By. We commonly use metaphors which treat work done as value achieved. This is at the heart of some of the difficulties that Western countries face, IMO.

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You misunderstand: these are final evaluations, not midterms. As in, in any given term (semester, quarter, whatever), teachers fill out two evaluations of students: one in the middle of the term, called the midterm, and one at the tend of the term, called the final. Both of these are established terminology that I can't change; the end-of-term evaluation must be called the final. –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 1:39
As I said, I'm making this up because I don't know your process. However, if you call it after the artifact it creates - reviewed midterm, reviewed final, whatever - and divorce it from the process that's needed to be done to create it, it has all kinds of magical benefits. I should explain that I'm not familiar with your terminology mostly because I'm in the UK, and a dev. I recognize the problem because we face this kind of thing all the time, particularly with the words "test" and "testing". –  Lunivore Jan 20 '12 at 1:51
+1 for interesting answer and recommended reading –  MετάEd Jan 20 '12 at 18:48

The word you want is "finished".

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For which usage, #2 or #3? –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 15:04
Sorry, I meant for #2 –  user16269 Jan 21 '12 at 0:19

It will be convenient and appropriate if you name the versions to reflect their intended destination. However, for that you will need to clear the existing associations from your thinking and look at it afresh.

  1. Evaluation -- is ready for, will go next for evaluation
  2. Approval -- is ready for, will go next for approval
  3. Final -- is ready. Will not go anywhere for any modifications.

Also, you will need to completely do away with all references to the word 'final', except to designate the one and only version called 'Final' with a capital 'F'.

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No can do: like I said, calling the end-of-term evaluation the "final" is the one usage I cannot change. –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 14:31
It's a term of art. It doesn't have to make sense. :/ –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 14:35
You haven't given an alternative to final-as-in-not-draft, which is what I was actually asking for. Also, it's not a document being evaluated, but a student. In other words, the evaluation is the document. Maybe I'll edit my question a bit. –  Marthaª Jan 20 '12 at 14:39
I think I am getting your point. Let me see if I can edit my answer with a suitable alternative. –  Kris Jan 20 '12 at 14:52

I think you would be better off giving them the option of either Saving a Draft or Submitting, since the word 'Submit' is used a lot in websites when you are sending a final version of something off to its destination and is familiar to most internet-users.

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