Re: Re[2]: generic "he"

Subject: Re: Re[2]: generic "he"
From: Matt Hicks <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 1 Dec 1994 09:24:20 -0700

On Thu, 1 Dec 1994, Vicki Rosenzweig wrote:

> Did we not recently agree that the appropriate form for most if
> not all technical writing is the second person? Is it not accepted
> here that a manual is better addressed to "you, the user" than written
> about "the user....he/she/they/he or she"? The generic pronoun issue
> may need to be resolved elsewhere, but for the purposes of technical
> writing we're in an ideal position to evade it, since "you" is a
> truly generic pronoun, applying to any number of persons, of either or
> both sexes, who are being addressed.

I would be inclined to agree with Vicki if the programs, machines, etc.
that we write about were always used in isolation. But often (maybe most
of the time) the products we describe work in conjunction with or with
input from other products at least part of the time. Some of us may even
be describing equipment that requires two or more operators (I'm thinking
here of those working in manufacturing and heavy industry). So it is
frequently the case that the steps taken by another user need to be
described--clearly one cannot also address the secondary user as "you".
Two quick, software-oriented examples:

1. You are documenting a package that incorporates revision-control
features and you need to write an example showing how it accomod-
ates several users working on the same project simultaneously.

2. You are discussing sending files to a service bureau and need
to describe what they will do with the files when they receive

I don't think this is too much of a stretch. I bet most of you can think
of similar examples in your own work; not many of our end users are
working from solitary confinement.

Matt Hicks, Tech. Writer, Unidata * I may not agree with what you
Boulder, CO, (303)497-8676, ******* say, but I'll defend to the
matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu ************* death my right to mock you.

Previous by Author: Re: Modem Speeds
Next by Author: "killer"?
Previous by Thread: Re[4]: generic "he"
Next by Thread: Re: Re[2]: generic "he"

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads