Past Tents

Subject: Past Tents
From: Scott McDaniel <mcdaniel -at- PIONEER -dot- USPTO -dot- GOV>
Date: Mon, 24 Jul 1995 16:06:36 EDT

Hi all,

I've been reading the present/future tense discussion with
interest. Like the others who have posted, I prefer present
tense, and I use it exclusively in my writing. But writing
is only one part of my job.


How far do you go with the idea of keeping to the present
tense when editing somebody else's documentation. To a
person, all of the programmers I work with use the future
tense. While I can't write the docs for all of their
programs, I do wind up editing many of them. It doesn't
even occur to them to write in present tense, and I'd be
willing to bet that their audiences don't notice the
future tense either. At what point do we say, "This is
a personal preference" and let it slide vs. changing
everything to the present?


---


A related question that I've been thinking about lately
is whether addressing the reader as "you" is appropriate
(for example, "Once you press <enter>, the software
processes for approximately 40 days and 40 nights.").

I prefer to use "you" in informal to moderately formal
documentation, but I drop it for official deliverables.
I work, however, for a govt. contractor, so I don't
often write for the general market.

Any opinions on when it's o.k. to use "you" in documentation?



Back to lurking,
Scott McDaniel



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