RE: The 'user' in User Manual

Subject: RE: The 'user' in User Manual
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Cardimon,Craig" <ccardimon -at- M-S-G -dot- com>, "Techwr-l" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007 13:15:39 -0700

Cardimon,Craig wrote:

> When you all are working on user manuals, what viewpoint do
> you most often take? Should I:
> (1) Remove all occurrences of "user" and "you" from the manual, and
> recast all sentences.
> (2) Take a "user"-centric stance.
> (3) Take a "you"-centric stance.

You should be user-centric, but I don't think that means what you think
it means. :-)

If the intended reader is the user, then referring to "the user" in the
manual (e.g., "The user must enter the correct password.") -- that is,
using the third person -- sucks, IMHO. It's stilted, awkward, wordy,
cold, off-putting, and potentially confusing to the reader ("Are they
talking about me?").

Address the reader -- use the second person. Most of the time, you don't
need the word "you" because you can use the imperative mood (in which
the subject of the sentence is omitted and understood to be "you"). See
the first sentence of this paragraph (or this sentence) for an example.
But address the reader.


Richard G. Combs
Senior Technical Writer
Polycom, Inc.
richardDOTcombs AT polycomDOTcom
rgcombs AT gmailDOTcom


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