In one computer program, there is an option to specify one or more arguments (software packages in this case). I am writing the help documentation, so I'm wondering what phrase to use to explain that fact:

This option allows one to...

  1. download one or more packages without installing them.
  2. download one or more packages without installing it.
  3. download one or more packages without installing it/them.

Is any of them the above three options correct? Are there better alternatives?

3 Answers 3


I notice you are using the plural "packages" in all cases. The correct complement for the plural noun in that case would be "them".

I personally have no trouble with using "one or more packages" as "more" is closer to "packages" and "one or more package" would sound bizarre.

Moreover, I agree with RIMMER that "one" could be replaced. His suggestion of "you" might work, but may strike too informal a tone for software documentation. Instead you might try:

This option allows users to download one or more packages without installing them.

  • I prefer the informal tone :)
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 11:27
  • 1
    I think the documentation is for *nix, which is known for informal language and that's why we love it so much, huh? :)
    – Frantisek
    May 19, 2011 at 11:44
  • @RiMMER: Yeah, it is a Unix tool.
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 11:49

Couldn't you avoid this problem by saying some packages, or just packages, as in

This option allows you to download packages without installing them.

It seems to me the one or more is rather superfluous, as nobody is likely to be interested in an option that allows you to download no packages.

  • Would it be that obvious that a single package (the majority use-case) can be specified?
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 12:44
  • @Tshepang, I couldn't say, not knowing anything about the software. May 19, 2011 at 13:08
  • 2
    +1. If someone were to say, "Bring your children along," it would not mean that those with only one child should leave him or her at home:). One or more would only be useful if this software usually makes you download a number of packages at a time and this option allows you to download just one, or more.
    – Tragicomic
    May 19, 2011 at 13:38
  • @Tragicomic: well put.
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 13:59

Firstly, I believe starting with This option allows you to would be a lot better in this situation, because obviously the document will be read by only 1 user at a time and it should be talking to this specific user, although your original idea is grammatically correct too.

As for the latter sentence, I am not sure which of those you proposed is correct, but again, I'd like to propose a better solution, at least in my opinion:

Download one or more packages without proceeding with the installation.

Which basically keeps the language on the "action" level and let's the user know that they can install the packages themselves later when they choose to.

  • I avoided your approach because I wanted to make it clear the installation is of the package. Your approach makes it seem like we are installing something else as well.
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 10:35
  • I agree that you is better than one. It's less cold/detached.
    – tshepang
    May 19, 2011 at 10:37
  • Then you can use Download one or more packages without proceeding with **their** installation.
    – Frantisek
    May 19, 2011 at 10:37
  • What about "download one or more packages without installing" or "Download packages without installing them"?
    – user8568
    May 19, 2011 at 10:59

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