Re: Using the Term "User"

Subject: Re: Using the Term "User"
From: Fred M Jacobson <fred -at- BOOLE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 11:50:08 PST

Gary Dettmers writes:

> At our company we have moved away from the term "the user" to a more friendly
> and personal voice by using a different person. We now say "you" in our
> manuals to give the reader the feeling that she is recognized by the writer.
> We felt any other method left our readers with the feeling that we were being
> distant in our approach.

I strongly support using the second person instead of the third person
in manual. I believe that it is not only friendlier, but also clearer
and easier to understand. This leaves the third person for refering to
people other than the reader. For example, "You need to create the
account for your new user. He or she needs to set the password." Notice
that I used "your." I think this is good in moderation. I am still
working to remove an over-abundance of "yours" from the doc set I
inherited from other writers. It wasn't far from: "Now insert the
connector on your serial cable in to the socket labeled 'A/B' on your
workstation." (Here, I typically replace the first "your" with "the."
If I'm feeling surly, I replace both.)

What about using the _first_ person in documents. Everywhere I've ever
worked, it's been prohibited. I've never wanted to write "I think ...",
but at times "You should ..." does express "We recommend ..." What's your
take on this?

By the way, I have a problem occasionally with "user." Not that it
connotes drug user; after all, I still call a crack "a crack." Rather that
it is too close to the verb. What do you write instead of "The user can use
this command to ..." in a spec or other context where the third person is
appropriate. (Or do you care?)

INTERNET: fred -at- boole -dot- com PHONE: (408) 526-3292 FAX: (408) 526-3055
USPS: Fred Jacobson / Boole & Babbage / 3131 Zanker Road / San Jose CA 95134

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