Re: Using the Term "User"

Subject: Re: Using the Term "User"
From: Gary Dettmers <garyd -at- TEKELEC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 3 Dec 1993 16:04:49 -0600

Fred M Jacobson writes:

> 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?)

I agree with you about using "you" or "your" too much in writing technical
docs. Moderation should be employed when using this method. A manual can
become too friendly which turns off some readers entirely. It also becomes

Instead of "You should..." we (at our compangy) have fallen into a practice
of writing "<Our Company Name> recommends plugging in an ECM board...." This
keeps our nose clean and no one can accuse us of being overtly chummy in our

As far as the "user" reference in specs is concerned, I don't mind because
it's input material to me and I'm used to it. I am the one who has to
translate engineering writing into an understandable format for our audience.

________________ Gary Dettmers | I'd rather have a full
* \\\// * Sr. Tech Writer | bottle in front of me,
* (o o) * Tekelec | than to have a full
*--ooO-(_)-Ooo--* gary -dot- dettmers -at- tekelec -dot- com | frontal lobotomy.
| --Unkown

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