Help Systems & Gender Differences

Subject: Help Systems & Gender Differences
From: Caryn Rizell <caryn -at- HPPTC44 -dot- ROSE -dot- HP -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 10:52:44 PDT

Hi All!

I think I should clarify some of the comments I made about
how men and women respond to the idea of 'help'.

1) In no way was my intent to stereotype. It is true that
not all men act a certain way, and not all women act a
different way. There will always be exceptions to
any rule.

I also like to avoid identifying behaviors as 'masculine'
and 'feminine'--especially since it is usually used in a
perjorative way ("acting like a sissy").

2) But it is also true that men and women *do* respond differently
to the same situation in most cases. Men and women do
have different ways of communicating and interacting. Andreas
Ramos pointed out the studies that Carol Gilligan and Deborah
Tannen have done, which are extremely valid.

3) Given that *most* men act one way and *most* women act another
way, what do we do with that in regards to what we write
and how we write it? Has it made a difference in how we
approach our audience? If we know our audience is mostly
male or mostly female, do we write differently? (That is
not to say that we 'talk up' when writing for men, or 'talk
down' when writing for women assuming they are less technical.)

These are just some issues that have come to my mind, all because
one user had a problem finding something in our help system! I
started thinking about gender, that we shouldn't rule it out
as a factor.

Caryn Rizell
Tech Writing Contractor

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