RE: The second person in user guides

Subject: RE: The second person in user guides
From: "Joe Malin" <jmalin -at- tuvox -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 11:20:14 -0800


I first want to separate breezy, casual style from second person.

You can engage readers the best by presenting the information they need
in an organized fashion. A breezy, casual style may be useful as well,
but isn't a replacement. That style may actually be a turn-off,
depending on your customer.

Regardless of organization or style, I always use the second person in
writing. THe imperative mood, after all, is just one form of the second
person. I use the imperative in procedures as a way to make the steps
crystal clear and easy to read.

I think that people who want to avoid the second person are afraid of
communication. What better way to engage the reader than to acknowledge
him or her? Of course, the "avoiders" may not be eschewing

Joe Malin
Technical Writer
jmalin -at- tuvox -dot- com
The views expressed in this document are those of the sender, and do not
necessarily reflect those of TuVox, Inc.

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.



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