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

Subject: Re: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?
From: Jo Francis Byrd <jbyrd -at- byrdwrites -dot- com>
To: David Castro <thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 16:31:22 -0600

I would assume the user (me, you, whoever) cannot delete this item, but then, when
it comes to computers and programs, I'm not exactly an innocent bystander (I doubt
that any of us on this list are). If you're dealing with the computer ignorant,
however, it might be better to go ahead and use the passive voice.

FWIW

Jo Byrd



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?
>
> -David Castro
> techwrtr -at- crl -dot- com
> thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com





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