Using "user"

Subject: Using "user"
From: Anatole Wilson <awilson -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 10:31:06 PST

I agree that when writing documentation I prefer to speak directly to the user.
It establishes a more friendly rapport with the reader and heck, it's usually
easier than using third person.

But I've been unable to think of a better catch-all term than "user." It
describes exactly what a person wants to do with the software--use it. Using
terms like "Operator" can be confusing because they suggest specific actions
that may not apply. Terms like "audience" or "reader" don't work because they
suggest passivity; that's fine when people are reading a book, but when
they want to run that software, they want to be users, not readers.

I'm not too sympathetic with the people who see drug-user connotations in the
term "user." Our language has somany words that mean more than one thing,
and you can't possibly anticipate *every* connotation that may be attached
to a word. You can only try to plan for the connotations that your target
audience will have. (I *do* question the wisdom of whoever it was that
decided the acronym for Object-Oriented Programming Systems. DO you really
expect to come out with a program using a language whose acronym is OOPS?).

I do think those who attach any use of the word "user" with the term
"drug user" are in the minority. about combining it with the friendly first person address and
calling them "yousers"?

Now yousers press the ENTER key...

Anatole Wilson "If I should say to a novice,
Sr. Assoc. Information Developer 'write from experience only,'
IBM, Santa Teresa Labs I should feel that this was
awilson -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com rather a tantalizing monition
if I were not careful to add,
'try to be one of the people
on whom nothing is lost.'"
all company disclaimers apply --Henry James

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