RE: Grammar Q

Subject: RE: Grammar Q
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: "Lauren" <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>, <baj357 -at- gmail -dot- com>, <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 18 Jan 2008 15:29:48 -0500

Lauren [mailto:lauren -at- writeco -dot- net] spake thusly:
> > You are using it anyway.
> > When you say "Do X.", the "you" is implied.
> >
>
> I *am* discussing the explicit use of the word "you," hence the quotes
and
> my examples with and without "you" (the word, not the target of the
> instruction). I do not have issues with imperative writing and the
> unstated
> target, who can be interpreted by the reader as "you," "the service
> technician," "the author," or "the sop that got stuck with the job."
My
> discussion is specifically focused on the use of the word "you."
"You" is
> not necessary in documentation.
>
> Although some grammarians here refer to the "second-person
imperative,"
> absence of an explicit "person" can be interpreted as first, second,
or
> third person, since *no* person is even referenced.
>
> "Click the widget to begin," can be interpreted as "____ must click
the
> widget to begin." "_____" can be the author, the reader, or the user,
who
> are first, second, and third persons respectively.
>
> I don't interpret imperative writing as second-person focused, which
would
> mean that the document was written for me, the reader. When I am a
reader
> of documents, I am usually an editor and I am thinking about the user
of
> the
> document. In my head, I fill in the blank with "the user," a third
> person.
> So for me, the document is sometimes third-person imperative. This is
> also
> how I write. I don't know the grammatical terms for my writing
> preferences, although, for me, "second-person imperative" is a
misnomer.

When I write:
"Click the widget to begin"
that means _you_.
There's no "can be interpreted as '____must click the widget...'".
I'm not writing for an editor.
I'm writing for somebody who is trying to accomplish a task.
I'm telling that person, my reader, what to do.
An editor (or somebody who is desperate enough to read instruction
manuals for entertainment) is perfectly free to read my words with a
picture of some other actor in their heads, but they are not my
audience, to whom _I_ am writing.
If I want to say that "<someone> must click the widget to begin", I'll
say exactly that. If I want the person who is reading, to find out what
to do next, to click the widget, I'll say "Click the widget."
The YOU will be very much implied, by English language convention, and I
have a reasonable expectation that it should be understood that way.
I write it the way I do precisely because I am _not_ talking to myself
or to some third party. I am addressing the reader and telling her/him
what to do, in the situation for which the document was written.
I also, occasionally, use the word "you" explicitly.
"You might encounter a one-eyed, one-horned, flying, purple[,/-] people
eater."
I could have said "A one-eyed, one-horned flying, purple, people eater
might appear", except that it might not be as precise. It might be that
the purple people eater does indeed manifest itself as though from
nothing, but it might mean that your action could bring you to where the
purple people eater happens to be, or your action could bring the purple
people eater to your location {"please provide coordinates" [bonus
points for recognizing that line]).
Nevertheless, when the next thing that I say is "Press the red button on
the People-eater-zapper", I mean YOU should press the button. Not some
nameless third party who might already be running for the hills. Not me
- I'm not there with you, in purple people eater country. Purple people
eaters are quick. YOU have to press that button, right.... er... never
mind.
Film at eleven.
Memorial services on Saturday.
Donations in lieu of flowers should be directed to the "You means YOU"
fund.

Kevin
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References:
RE: Grammar Q: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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