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I work as a web developer, and often times have to instruct someone to open some page. I usually write "Navigate to https://example.com/something", but I feels a bit pretentious. On the other hand I want to use professional language, so I'm not sure about other alternatives like "open a page ...", "go to ...". What would be the correct verb to use in this case?

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    To my ear "surf" sounds a bit dated now. Aug 25 at 10:18
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    Also, even when it was current, you might talk about "surfing the web" but not "surfing to Yahoo".
    – jsheeran
    Aug 25 at 11:03
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    Yes, our language about "getting around" the internet has shifted since the days we actually named a browser Netscape Navigator. (Language then was often even more awkward—"Point your browser to," "Log on to" (even for sites with no login feature), or even "Type ___ into your browser's address bar.") These days, such language would be inappropriately specific as we access websites using many devices and input methods. Making this a comment rather than answer because IMO it's a subjective question. "Navigate" is not incorrect. But I agree that it feels dated or stilted. I would choose "go to" Aug 25 at 20:40
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    There's nothing unprofessional about "go to". In fact it is professional because its simplicity respects the reader's mental energy.
    – Steven
    Aug 26 at 2:32
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    Also, note that many times it's not necessary to write "go to example.com". In fact, it's advised [citation needed] to instead hyperlink relevant words. (That usually needs some rewriting.)
    – Pablo H
    Aug 26 at 15:07
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In that example, I would simply say "go to".

I would use "navigate" for something which required a series of steps - e.g. if someone is uploading a file they might "navigate" to the file by going through a series of folders and subfolders until they get there.

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    Contra the concern of the asker, I don't think there's anything unprofessional about "go to". It's straightforward, and no less precise than "navigate" in this context. Aug 25 at 15:14
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    There's nothing wrong with saying "Go to the passport office", so I don't see why "Go to the passport office website" would be any different. Some people when writing formal things think they should avoid everyday Germanic words like "go" and use Latinate terms like "progress" or "proceed", but it's completely unnecessary.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 25 at 20:56
  • I understand this is an extremely common usage, but I'm not a fan of 'go to', not because of germanic vs latinate, but because you don't actually go anywhere. Conceptually you bring the page to yourself. I don't have a problem with 'visiting' a site or 'navigating' to a page within the site, or even 'accessing' a site once you've logged in - conceptually these don't mandate physical actions, but 'going' somewhere while remaining stationary just doesn't sit well.
    – mcalex
    Aug 26 at 8:50
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    @mcalex: I don't agree. I think the lack of physical action you note in "visit" and "navigate" is precisely because they've had their definitions broadened. So has "go", making it equally valid. All of these originally meant more than the action of typing in an address (or clicking a link), and for the most part they implied physical motion. Aug 26 at 8:56
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    @mcalex Take the example of a book. If you go to page 22 you are still sitting at your desk and have merely used your hands to make the page visible. Same when going to a website.
    – Nemo
    Aug 26 at 9:08
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Visit the website. The OED defines the word visit, in this context, as meaning "access and view (a website or web page)".

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I prefer to use the word 'browse' when writing documentation. The user is using a web browser, so feels like the verb should be 'browse'

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    To me, "browse" suggests wandering among different pages at a site, not just going to a specific URL. E.g. you might spend an hour browsing Wikipedia.
    – Barmar
    Aug 27 at 13:49
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Being consistent is key.

I recommend using "open xyz in a web browser".

Or, when the content makes it clear that you are referring to a web browser, just using "open xyz" works well.

"Go to" is my second choice, but I agree that it sounds a bit colloquial. I will use it only when using "open" may cause confusion. The primary example of this is when you are instructing someone to "go to" a web page to "open" a file.

The term "surf" is dated and never really made much sense.

"Navigate" is best left for tasks that require multiple steps or when greater complexity is involved.

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  • What else could you be referring to when you tell someone to open a web site? I think "in a web browser" is practically always redundant, and we rarely see it.
    – Barmar
    Aug 27 at 13:51
  • @Barmar It depends on how specific you define what to open. For example, if you instruct a user to "open your email", you need to specify "in a web browser" if you want someone to use a web-app vs. a desktop or mobile application. Separately, if you are describing steps to take within a specific non-browser application, and then you instruct someone to "open stackexchange.com", it will be confusing to a user unless you also specify "in a web browser". Aug 27 at 13:57
  • Unless you specifically mean to contrast with using the mobile app, it could also be too specific.
    – Barmar
    Aug 27 at 14:06
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Access is often used with websites. Cambridge defines it as meaning:

to open a computer file (= a collection of stored information), a website, etc. in order to look at or change information in it

  • Most people use their phones to access the internet.

GNgram records the expression access a website as very commonly used:

enter image description here

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    "Go to a website" is even more commonly used than "access a website" Aug 25 at 12:25
  • @CanadianYankee True, but the OP did say that "I want to use professional language". "Go to" is not necessarily professional, at least not as professional as "access".
    – fev
    Aug 25 at 13:40
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    For me, “access” might only refer to a website that I need to log in to use, such as “access your account on our site”. There’s a hint of required authentication to the meaning, in my mind.
    – DukeSilver
    Aug 26 at 20:18
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Open http://example.com/

A side benefit is that one may copy & paste it verbatim into a MacOS X terminal and it does the right thing: opens the URL in the person's default browser.

For those on OS without open, it's possible to create aliases that do the same thing. All of this may then be wrapped up in your style guide for consistent experiences in both your documentation and in developer/user experience.

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  • Does the "open" command work when it's spelled with a capital letter? I don't have a Mac handy to test on at the moment. Either way, this seems like a seriously niche benefit. Documentation shouldn't be written with the intent to be scripted and/or copy-pasted.
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 28 at 0:21
  • Yes, @CodyGray. MacOS HFS file system is by default case insensitive, but may be switched to case sensitive. See also how to check the state. In such case, and I do this anyhow, is to define an alias for both open and Open to run command open "${@}".
    – bishop
    Aug 28 at 2:16
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"Make your way to https://example.com/something",

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/making+your+way+to

To navigate or find one's way to or toward something or some location.

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    Using this phrase implies that getting there is difficult or otherwise cumbersome. I don't think that's what you want to imply.
    – Cody Gray
    Aug 28 at 0:22
  • @CodyGray It may imply a difficulty in American English - although the source does not mention this - but it does not in British English.
    – Greybeard
    Aug 28 at 11:32

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