Re: The second person in user guides

Subject: Re: The second person in user guides
From: John Posada <jposada01 -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "Sagendorph, Wallace" <wis8 -at- cdc -dot- gov>, "List,Techwriter" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 2005 11:04:20 -0800 (PST)

> 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.

I, for one, always address the user as You if it is the reader doing
what is instructed. I find nothing onjectionable with this style.

Example...this is an average paragraph from one of the documents I'm
working on now:

"The first thing you do is create the client portal. You specify the
folder name for the client and any alternative URL that the client
may use. This alternative URL will redirect the user to the login
page."

Granted, taken out of context, there might be some confusion, but by
specifying the YOU, client, and user, it differentiates between the
person doing what is instructed, and who it is being done for, and
who it affects.

John Posada
Senior Technical Writer

"The word "genius" isn't applicable
in football. A genius is a guy like
Norman Einstein." -
--Joe Theisman, NFL football
quarterback & sports analyst.
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References:
The second person in user guides: From: Sagendorph, Wallace

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