Subject: Gender/Plural/Person
From: Mike Christie <mikec -at- SYNTEL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 2 Jun 1994 12:38:00 PDT

There's no real agreement as to whether to err on the side of traditional
grammar or gender-neutral usage in such situations as:
The user must ensure that ??? password is correct.
There are times in the documentation I write where it is very clearly a
matter of the System Administrator setting up something _for_ the user,
but in most cases the imperative with its understood "you" works quite
well, and avoids the gender/number problems entirely:
Be sure your password is correct.
IMHO the third person in technical documentation has an arrogant, superior,
sound to it, like two adults talking about a child they think is out of
earshot, but really isn't:
"He's such a good boy!"
I always make it my aim to talk _to_ the user and not _about_ him, er...uh...
her, er...uh... him/her, er...uh... them, er...uh...

Mike Christie
Technical Writer
Syntelligence Systems, Inc.
mikec -at- syntel -dot- com

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