The second person in user guides

Subject: The second person in user guides
From: "Sagendorph, Wallace" <wis8 -at- cdc -dot- gov>
To: "List,Techwriter" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 13:48:37 -0500


A good fin-de-2005 to everyone:

The editorial staff where I work is preparing a comprehensive,
all-inclusive style manual that definitively (we hope) addresses all of
the weightier matters connected with document preparation. Because this
manual is primarily for editorial use and because most of our authors
will not bother to thumb through a 100+ -page tome looking for answers
to their writing-mechanics questions (an observation based, by the way,
on years of empirical data) we have also prepared a 27-page author's
companion guide that hits the common problems we encounter in usage,
punctuation, capitalization, abbreviation, acronyms, references and
citations, and so on.

Some have suggested that to engage the readers, we should write the
companion guide in a breezy, casual style using the second person ("you
should do this," you should not do that," "your document should
include," blah, blah). Others say this is tantamount to an approval of
such usage in formal documents, and is unnecessary in any event --- the
imperative mood ("do this," "don't do that") works as well or better,
and it does not imply that "you" and "your" should find their way into
documents released to publications or the public.

Your comments (;>) please.

Wallace

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