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Are both following sentences OK? What is better to use in a software in context of users accessing a server?

  1. "You do not have enough rights to do something"

  2. "You do not have sufficient permissions to do something"

Maybe something else?

Thanks!

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  • It depends on the context, in particular, whether the context is rights-based (e.g. the right to acquire property) or permissions-based (e.g. permission to access a building at a particular time). Please edit your question to say what the context is in the case you're asking about. Thank you :) .
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:25
  • @Lawrence, is it better now?
    – Andrej
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:29
  • Yes, that's better. In that context (software servers), it's customary to use the term permissions.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 9:46
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    Both are used extensively in software - the more 'correct' one would be the latter, but I've seen the former so many times (heck I've used it myself). Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 10:34
  • I would not use sufficient with permissions. I would not say sufficient apples either (I would say a sufficient number of apples). I might say sufficient funds, however. Dunno why.
    – Drew
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 14:25

1 Answer 1

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This question is really more suitable for English Language Learners (https://ell.stackexchange.com/), so I guess it will be moved there. Meanwhile:

  • Presumably this is about a technical notion rather than an everyday one. Therefore permissions is better than rights. Permissions implement a vague concept of rights in some concrete way. The implementation seems relevant to the statement. Also, these are probably permissions granted by someone rather than rights arising out of written or natural law.
  • Presumably it is not some quantitative measure of permissions that matters. The problem is that the addressee doesn't have one permission that is sufficient (or perhaps a suitable combination of such). Therefore sufficient is better.

The usual advice is to prefer short Anglo-Saxon words when in doubt. However, there is no doubt here, so that general advice does not apply. Note that if this were about having a large enough quantity of some rights that are not properly defined (and fluctuate somewhere between being granted by someone and arising naturally), then both formulations would be a priori equally good. However, since the second one also has a more technical reading, it would be better style to prefer the first one, which is more restrictive in meaning. This is probably a key reason why Anglo-Saxon words should normally be preferred when there is a free choice.

PS: If there is no reason to be technical, the clearest formulation may actually be this: "You do not have the right to do something." But I agree with Hot Licks' comment that this may be problematic because a certain type of user may not react well to being told they don't have the right to do something - possibly more so than when more technical language is used.

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  • I think it's best to avoid "rights" entirely when discussing what a computer program/device does or does not allow, especially when talking to someone who is not computer-savy. Many people will react to being told "You don't have the right to ..." by saying/thinking "Who are you to tell me I don't have the right?!"
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jul 18, 2016 at 11:33

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