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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