RE: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?

Subject: RE: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?
From: "Giordano, Connie" <Connie -dot- Giordano -at- FMR -dot- COM>
To: "'David Castro'" <thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>, TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 16:09:22 -0500


What a great question! It's ironic that many our colleagues in the software
development arena (including me) have considered this in developing GUI. We
advocate active verb tense, yet in one of the few places where it has
immediate impact on the end user, we rarely use it. In light of the fact
that so many software applications have multi-tiered security built in, it
could very easily be true that one particular "you" couldn't delete
something while another could.

I'd love to know if anyone who has dealt with formal usability testing has
run across this issue, and how you resolved it.

-----Original Message-----
From: David Castro

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

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
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,
around and see if someone else can." We have a very non-technical audience
(hospital workers), so I think he may be right.

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