RE: Grammar Q

Subject: RE: Grammar Q
From: "Combs, Richard" <richard -dot- combs -at- Polycom -dot- com>
To: "Al Geist" <al -dot- geist -at- geistassociates -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 07:51:30 -0700

Al Geist wrote:

> I have to go with the "get rid of 'you' crowd" on this one. I
> do not use "you" and I try to minimize the use of "their." I
> also don't resort to gimmicks like Fred, he, she, or he/she.
> I use active voice and tell them what needs to be
> done....Click this, file that, enter this, select that.
> It's worked for the last 30+ years and my clients seem
> extremely happy with my material.

I heartily agree that the implied "you" is the way to go. The explicit
you ("you must..." and the like) is pointless and quickly becomes
tedious and annoying.

But what you're describing is _second_person_ imperative. The "you" is
there, it's just hiding. ;-)

When you say "click this," the subject of the verb "click" is the
_second_person_, the reader. You're not saying "I click this" or "she
clicks this," you're saying "you click this," with the "you" understood.

Or maybe, given how often confusion about this surfaces, I should say
the "you" is _implied_, in the _hope_ that it will be understood.

BTW, this has nothing to do with active vs. passive voice, except that
you're pretty unlikely to write imperative mood sentences in the passive
voice. But it's possible: "Be tested."

Pedantically yours,

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


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RE: Grammar Q: From: Al Geist

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