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wshaffer
English usage question: below 
7th-Jun-2013 05:47 pm
RTFM
I've been seeing what seems to me to be an increase in what is (to me) an odd usage of the "below" - people saying things like, "Type the below command," instead of "Type the command below." For a long time, I wrote this off as an idiosyncratic usage of non-native speakers of English, but I've heard it recently from native speakers and seen it in at least one piece of commercial writing that I'd have expected to have been carefully copyedited.

So, I'm wondering - has English evolved to a point where "the below command" sounds completely normal, and I've just failed to notice?

Come to think of it, I can't quite explain why that usage should be wrong. After all, both "the paragraph above" and "the above paragraph" sound entirely natural.
Comments 
8th-Jun-2013 01:23 am (UTC)
This very native English speaker has a 'but of course' reaction. I've never heard it before, but it seems very reasonable and useful!


'Type the word below' is ambiguous. Is it the word that is below something, or are you supposed to type it below something? Distinguishing 'the below word' from 'the word below' -- clears this up neatly.

'Type the word above' might be equally ambiguous, but there is seldom any space above to type it, and we are used to beiing instructed to type something below something.

Southern US / old Oxbridge
8th-Jun-2013 05:52 pm (UTC)
That's true - because of that ambiguity, I don't normally use sentences like, "Type the command below," at all, preferring things like, "Type the following command." But for some reason my ear balks at putting "below" before the noun, even if my brain recognizes that the construction makes sense.
8th-Jun-2013 07:52 pm (UTC)
It does sound odd, modern -- refreshingly so, to me. But I would be careful to whom I used it, as some people might be confused or irritated by its newness.
8th-Jun-2013 04:33 pm (UTC)
Your latter examples involving "above" sound natural because you are leaving out the verb, which you include with "below". I just now had an editor point out that "type the above command" (see the command, there? Type it.) and "type the command above" (type the command you already have in the above space) are two different things.

8th-Jun-2013 05:54 pm (UTC)
Ah, that's true. I hadn't thought of that because I was mentally filling in a more typical example of where I might use above, like, "Refer to the paragraph above," versus "Refer to the above paragraph." Where, because of the nature of the verb, there's no difference in meaning.
9th-Jun-2013 06:13 pm (UTC)
I hate to tell you, but I do that all the time - well, "the command below" more than "the below command" (or far more likely, "type as below" or simply "type:") in user manuals.

I've seen 'the below command' enough to stop rolling my eyes at it.
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