Re: Past Tents

Subject: Re: Past Tents
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- STARBASECORP -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 25 Jul 1995 09:59:19 -0700

Scott McDaniel wonders...

[snip]

> 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?

It depends (now there's a cop-out for you)! If the material
is going to be published and widely distributed, I'd say go
all the way in purging the future tense from the docs. If
the material has a limited distribution (in-house, maybe)
or if time is a problem, then perhaps you can let a few
temporal disorders pass unnoticed.

Granted, the thought would never occur to them on their own,
but perhaps you could whisper in their ears about this. (Of
course, you'll always be faced with them what don't even
know what future tense is -- or claim they don't anyway!)

Is there a style guide in which the preference for present
tense is written down? This, at least, would give you some
amunition should you attempt to get them to change their
ways.

[snip some more]
> Any opinions on when it's o.k. to use "you" in documentation?

When is it OK *not* to use "you" in documentation (or any other
time you're addressing an audience)??? Just wondering, since I
haven't found a good substitute. ;-)

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- starbasecorp -dot- com


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