RE: The second person in user guides

Subject: RE: The second person in user guides
From: "Tom Storer" <tstorer -at- free -dot- fr>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2005 09:50:56 +0100

Beth Agnew said (to Wallace Sagendorph):

"It always comes back to audience. What is the best style for your
customers? While the 'you' is implied in the imperative, you may have
occasion to address the reader directly."

I agree with this. However, Wallace, if you do go for a more "casual"
2nd-person approach than you're used to, remember that the imperative is
better when there really is something the user *must* do at that point.
Sometimes in order to create a warm and cheery atmosphere, writers shy away
from being explicitly directive and giving orders. This can lead to saying
"You should do XYZ" or "you can do XYZ to get result ABC" in situations
where the user in fact needs to be told "Now do XYZ. The result is ABC."
Personally I avoid "you should"s--if I have a recommandation to make I call
it a recommendation, otherwise it's either an order or options to be

- Tom Storer


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