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?

> 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


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

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