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Subject:Re: Grammar Q From:Janice Gelb <Janice -dot- Gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM> To:techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com Date:Mon, 21 Jan 2008 14:32:17 +1100
> 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.
In what scenario would this be the author of the document?
As for a differentiation between "the reader" or "the user,"
this distinction is generally only relevant if the reader of
the document ("you) is developing a product for a third party
("the user"). While in that case the documentation must make a
distinction between "you" (the reader) and "the user" (the
ultimate consumer of the product being developed), imperative
instructions are never going to apply to a third person. The
text is always being read by a single person, and that person
is either the person who's supposed to be clicking the widget
to accomplish a task ("Click the widget") or the person who is
developing the widget that an eventual third party will be using
("At this point, the user clicks the widget to begin").
> 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.
Are you saying here that you assume that the reader of
the document is the disinterested editor of it??? I am
P.S. I haven't included thoughts on when "you" would be
relevant and useful in documentation outside procedures as
others have already responded to that issue as I would have.
Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com | this message is the return address
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