RE: you or he/it

Subject: RE: you or he/it
From: "Nuckols, Kenneth M" <Kenneth -dot- Nuckols -at- mybrighthouse -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 Jun 2006 09:16:52 -0400

Anonymous said...

> Hello group,
> I'm in the midst of a (major) disagreement at my place of employment.
> Since beginning my career as a Technical Writer, I've had it pounded
> into me that we are to use the "you", eliminate "it/he/she", keep it
> informal and to the point, and use present tense WHENEVER possible.
> Make it simple and easy to follow.
> We now have a new Japanese Project Leader who wishes me to create a
> completely new, FORMAL format, eliminating you, sprinkling it/he
> liberally, and generally, creating a document that (in my opinion
> only) would be very difficult to read through, especially for our
> Target Audience. (Admininstrative IT personnel)
> What I'm asking for is your collective opinion about this. Do you have
> background in this within your own company? What did you do? I'm
> searching on the internet for examples, pulling out all my books,
> getting everything together to show that the style we use is a common
> practice in the Industry, and not a flash in the pan. Even if you use
> another style, could you tell me about that?
> I would appreciate any help. Most of our customers do not read the
> documents anyway (fact of life), but I don't want to turn off the few
> that do. OH, let me add, we are in Europe, so most readers are ESL
> (English as a Second Language).
> Many, many thanks.

IMO you don't need the opinion of other writers, you need to do a little
more research (or consult existing research) on your readers. I say this
because you mention you are in Europe writing to an ESL audience.

This is not a clash of Japanese vs. American (or British) culture--so
don't make this a personal conflict of your preference vs. your project
leader's preference. Instead, find out what is more preferred or more
accepted to your audience. In this both you and your Project Leader
should have the same goal--to provide the most easily understandable and
most useful end product to your audience. It could be that these readers
prefer a more formal style. Whether they want a formal or informal
style, it should show up in your research.

I would see this as an opportunity to evaluate the needs of your
audience so that everyone on your team (from the Project Leader to the
writers and editors) can produce the best possible tone for your

Good luck!

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