Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?

Subject: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?
From: "Niesa Page" <Niesa_Page -at- stercomm -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:51:51 -0600

david castro wrote:

I'm having an interesting discussion with a programmer, regarding the error
messages that I'm reviewing.

He says that he's not into grammar and such, yet he's making some good points.

I rewrote this error:

"This item cannot be deleted."

to say:

"You cannot delete this item."

so that we have consistently active wording. The active/passive doesn't matter
as much to this particular error message as it does to others.

But what he pointed out is that users might take my rewrite to mean "*you*
can't delete the item, but someone else might, so if you want to delete it, ask
around and see if someone else can." We have a very non-technical audience
(hospital workers), so I think he may be right.

Do you think that the generic you is implied in error messages?

While one likes to hope that their audience is smarter than they really are, i
have to agree w/the SME.
In addition, the first is far more emphatic and leaves no room for question on
the user's part. under
these circumstances, the passive voice is acceptable.

Niesa Page
E-Business Strategies 2000
Secrets of the E-Business Masters
May 8-11, 2000 Orlando, FL USA

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