This is the text supposedly providing the parameters for creating acceptable usernames for a particular website:

The username is case sensitive. Choose a username that is 6-74 characters long and must contain a lowercase or capital letter, a number, or one of these symbols _.@/-

In other words: A username for this site must consist of from 6 to 74 characters and must contain one of the following:

 -any upper or lower case letter
 -any 6 to 74 digit number 
 -any one of the following symbols _.@/-

Therefore, any of the following should be acceptable usernames:

  • @@@@@@
  • 99999999999999999999999999999999999
  • /////......///
  • dar2zen

None of those, however, are actually accepted by the website. Therefore, the parameters, as stated, do not state what they mean to state. What they do mean to state is not clear. When the system rejects a username, no feedback on what requirement that username is failing to meet is given.

My question here is whether I am correct in believing that the username requirements, as written, state what I say they state.

  • I realize that my title is not exactly appropriate. I would love it if someone could provide a better one. – sarah Nov 16 '13 at 1:10
  • 3
    You are quite correct in your interpretation. Since even dar2zen does not work, I can only assume that ‘or’ here is an error, and that it should have said ‘and’. Only a requirement for both a letter (upper- or lowercase), and a number, and one of those symbols would make that an invalid combination. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 16 '13 at 1:13
  • Not only does dar2zen* not work, but Dar2zen does. Which adds to the complication. Now, it could be that dar2zen was already taken, though I find that highly unlikely. – sarah Nov 16 '13 at 3:37
  • Probably the 6-74 characters refers to alphanumeric characters, where in addition to numbers and lowercase letters, you have to have either a capital letter or a special character. Looks like the instructions are just flat out wrong. BTW, I hope you aren't using any of these passwords anywhere on the internet, since that's where they are now posted :) – trpt4him Nov 18 '13 at 3:58
  • @trpt4him Unfortunately, since the instructions don't say what they do mean, we can go on guessing. I've reported the issue to the site, but can't get a clarification of the actual requirements. And, remember, those are hypothetical usernames, not passwords. (And no, I'm not using them as passwords either!) – sarah Nov 25 '13 at 14:55

As written the instructions are rather unclear. The more appropriate way to write out these kinds of complicated instructions is to use a list of requirements:

The username is case sensitive. Choose a username that satisfies each of the following requirements:

  • 6-74 characters long
  • contains at least one letter
  • contains at least one number
  • contains at least one of these symbols _.@/-

To answer your specific question, the paragraph is written as these instructions are often written and does explain the requirements but it does not do so unambiguously.

In short:

  1. The paragraph is not strictly, technically correct (e.g. @@@@@@ is not a valid username)
  2. The paragraph's actual meaning is clear in the sense that they convey the intended rules in plain English (albeit poorly) because users don't typically try to create usernames like @@@@@@ legitimately
  3. The website should update their paragraph to be both technically correct (1) and convey the meaning in English (2)
  • 2
    +1 and I will add that the sentence is actually written rather clumsily. It should be either "a username that is X characters long and contains Y", or "the username must be X characters long and contain Y", but not the mix-and-matching of both we have here. We simply do not "choose a username that must be", that grates on the ears. – RegDwigнt Mar 7 '14 at 19:33
  • FWIW, I agree with @RegDwigнt but didn't feel like proofing the entire thing since a list is much less ambiguous. – MrHen Mar 7 '14 at 19:37
  • @MrHen I can't really see your point. It seems, rather, that requirements as defined in the paragraph are unambiguous. My complaint is that the requirements they defining are not the actual requirements for a valid username for the site. I agree that your list is far superior to the paragraph used. Also, please reread my specific question--the last sentence in the OP. I'm looking to designate a correct answer here, so I was hoping someone who's already answered could edit what they have. Thanks. – sarah Mar 11 '14 at 22:45
  • @sarah: Is my post not providing an adequate answer to your question? The last sentence is attempting to explicitly answer your question. – MrHen Mar 11 '14 at 22:48
  • @MrHen, Hi. That was quick! I end the OP with, "My question here is whether I am correct in believing that the username requirements, as written, state what I say they state." So, I was attempting to find out if I was misreading the text that supposedly laid out the parameters. I was very frustrated trying to create a username for the site, and was pretty darn sure I was meeting the requirements as stated (unambiguously, I think--just inaccurate, seems to me), but wanted to check to see if I was misreading what was written. – sarah Mar 11 '14 at 22:58

"or" means 'or". As written any one of those categories would be valid, so:


should be a valid password.

Since it is not, the definitions of the requirements of a password remains incomplete.

Apparently the commenters seem to be converging that the true rules are:

6 characters+ which can be letters, numbers and punctuation.

Must contain three of the following: small letters, capital letters, numbers, and punctuation.

  • The commenters may or may not know what the site requirements for a username are. That's why the situation is so frustrating to me. Since what they say is not what they mean, they may mean what it sort of seems logical to assume that they might have meant, but we have no way of knowing for sure. – sarah Mar 12 '14 at 1:56

Yes, it is correct. The question says or, so it basically gives you a choice between them.

  • What is the "it" that you are saying is correct? And to which question do you refer? – sarah Nov 16 '13 at 23:12

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