RE: Grammar Q

Subject: RE: Grammar Q
From: "Bonnie Granat" <bgranat -at- granatedit -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2008 17:16:19 -0500



> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> techwr-l-bounces+bgranat=granatedit -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+bgranat=granatedit -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l
> .com] On Behalf Of Lauren
> Sent: Friday, January 18, 2008 2:51 PM
> To: 'McLauchlan, Kevin'; baj357 -at- gmail -dot- com; techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: RE: Grammar Q
>
> > From: McLauchlan, Kevin
>
> > > I've seen documents written with phrases such as, "use this
> > procedure
> > when
> > > you need to access the system," but the use of "you" in
> > these cases is
> > > unnecessary because the phrase still works without "when
> > you need." I
> > > prefer to say what needs to be said with the fewest words possible
> > while
> > > keeping the document effective and comfortable to read.
> I don't see
> > where
> > > "you" is necessary to improve documentation and, for me, it
> > makes the
> > > writing more uncomfortable to read.
> >
> > 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.
>

"Click the widget to begin" leaves no room for interpretation (to most
editors). It's an imperative in the English language, and "you" is
understood. It's just a basic rule of English.


> I don't interpret imperative writing as second-person
> focused, which would
> mean that the document was written for me, the reader.

But that's what it is. Why don't you read an imperative as an imperative?

When
> I am a reader
> of documents, I am usually an editor and I am thinking about
> the user of the
> document.

An editor puts herself in the position of the actual user of the document,
to whom the document is generally addressed.


In my head, I fill in the blank with "the user," a
> third person.

I know of no editors who do this; it's actually a disservice to the actual
user, who is being directly addressed with the imperative. There is no
wiggle room, no fill-in-the blank. We cannot decide to arbitrarily interpret
English in a way that contravenes all accepted notions and call ourselves
professional editors.

> 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.
>

You can make your own rules, of course, but they don't correspond to what
most editors and writers are doing in English.


Bonnie Granat
http://www.GranatEdit.com



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

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