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All the three words are used to mean "throw light" in a document explaining principles of a barcode reader which I am checking. They are all used in sentences to explain "Throw LED to barcode".

I would think "irradiate" is the most direct word to explain this and am not sure about the other two words. They are definitely synonyms and I can find each word in a section to describe other two in some dictionaries, but I am concerned about collocation.

examples: (illuminate) Even if a barcode is within the illuminated area, it cannot be read if it is not on the light receiving axis.

(shine) Light from the LED shines on the barcode. By using pulse light emission, you can capture a still image of a moving workpiece.

Please give me your opinions on this. Thank you in advance.

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  • Do you have a link to the text?
    – pazzo
    Nov 7, 2014 at 1:45
  • I cannot paste a link here, but I can give some examples: (illuminate) Even if a barcode is within the illuminated area, it cannot be read if it is not on the light receiving axis./ (shine) Light from the LED shines on the barcode. By using pulse light emission, you can capture a still image of a moving workpiece.
    – Jun Kyoto
    Nov 7, 2014 at 2:06
  • Hi! Thanks for those examples. But you should edit your question and put the examples in your question. But, anyway, the uses of illuminated and shines in your examples are idiomatic and fine. In general, I would think illuminate to be more common than irradiate.
    – pazzo
    Nov 7, 2014 at 2:10
  • Thanks for your advice!! Does "irradiate" makes you imagine something else? It seems to be the most direct word for throwing light in this context especially in Japanese/English dictionaries (although they are often damn).
    – Jun Kyoto
    Nov 7, 2014 at 2:15
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    Irradiate makes me think of exposure to radiation, as from an x-ray. But it does mean to shine light upon. If the context requires Irradiate as a technical word, than irradiate would be the best choice. But if no technical term is necessary, then a native speaker might choose the appropriate synonym by exact context, including surrounding words, which is why I asked for the text. :)
    – pazzo
    Nov 7, 2014 at 2:29

2 Answers 2

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I would be inclined not to use any of the three choices you suggest. Irradiate is usually used for sources which are outside the visible spectrum, for example, to expose something to x-rays, or microwaves, or energy in the ultraviolet frequency range. Illuminate is a general exposing to light, usually used within the visible light spectrum. Shine is similarly used with frequencies within the visible light spectrum.

The word most usually used in English to refer to a directed light source is "project". In the case of your example it might be

Move the scanner so that the light from the LED is projected across the barcode.

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  • Thank you brasshat, your comment is informative. How do you think of using "direct" interchangeably with "project"? So in your example it would be as follows: Move the scanner so that the light from the LED is directed across the barcode.
    – Jun Kyoto
    Nov 7, 2014 at 4:38
  • I think it sounds fine. One thing to watch more generally for, (though you may have already made provision for this and it's just not apparent from your question), is to specify what "across" means. Readers not familiar with barcode scanners might think "across a barcode" means parallel to the lines of the barcode, insteqad of perpendicular to the lines of the barcode.
    – brasshat
    Nov 7, 2014 at 19:31
  • What about "Ray"? Can the word be used interchangeably with any of the three options or does it have any different unique character?
    – Jun Kyoto
    Dec 12, 2014 at 5:01
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Go by brasshat, but I've typically heard that an object illuminates when light comes from within, like a light bulb, but something shines if light is reflecting off of it, like a diamond. Hence the word shiny, something that reflects light beautifully like a metal surface or a jewel. Typically I have seen project only used for things projecting images onto surfaces, things like projectors.

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  • What about "Ray"? Can the word be used interchangeably with any of the three options or does it have any different unique character?
    – Jun Kyoto
    Dec 12, 2014 at 5:01
  • While "ray" can be used as a verb, it is so much more commonly used as a noun that I think it would be confusing to the target readership.
    – brasshat
    Dec 12, 2014 at 11:00

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