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

Subject: RE: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?
From: Chuck Martin <CMartin -at- serena -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Feb 2000 14:49:12 -0800

The point's irrelevant. The correct answer is to say to the programmer: "Why
is the program designed so the user can delete if it is not allowed at that
point?" Worrying about grammar of a message that shouldn't appear in the
first place is a waste of time.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: David Castro [mailto:thetechwriter -at- yahoo -dot- com]
> Sent: Thursday, February 10, 2000 10:33 AM
> Subject: Is the generic "you" implied in error messages?
> 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?
Chuck Martin
Sr. Technical Writer, SERENA Software

"People who use business software might despise it, but they are getting
paid to tolerate it....Most people who are paid to use a tool feel
constrained not to complain about that tool, but it doesn't stop them from
feeling frustrated and unhappy about it."
- "The Inmates are Running the Asylum"
Alan Cooper

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