gender issues and tech.write

Subject: gender issues and tech.write
From: Greg Cento <greg -at- FOCUS-SYSTEMS -dot- ON -dot- CA>
Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 14:36:41 -0400

Hello readers of this list,

I have been following this thread on gender bias in pronouns with much
interest, and I am very much in agreement with the women who, in their
childhood, felt alienated by the use of the so-called "neutral he/him". I'm
sure I read many of the same books, and I remember often wondering where
the women were. In my adult life as a graduate student (does this qualify
as adult?), I focused on the issue of gender and pronouns as it related to
human/nature discourse.

I could say a lot about this (believe me, I could), but instead I'll focus
on technical writing issues and the strategy I have adopted for
"neutralizing" my documents.

Basically, I do as much writing as I possibly can using the second person
singular pronoun (actual or implied): "First you do this=8Athen you do
that=8Atweak here=8Atwist there=8A" I find that this way I am able to avoid =
he/she/they constructions that some find awkward and others find insulting
(you know, that reverse discrimination/sexism song (grin)).

One more thing before I sign off: for what its worth, if I learn that a few
people are insulted by phrases like "rule of thumb", I just avoid using
them out of respect. I don't buy the argument, "there goes another useful
phrase the politically correct have taken from my arsenal of useful
phrases." I guess I'm just not as attached to my favorite phrases as others
are. Besides, in our office, we view the loss of a "useful phrase" as an
opportunity to have fun coming up with different ways of saying the same
old thing.

Also, for what ever this is worth, I respect Craig Patchett for the way he
actually listened to what people had to say and then had enough courage to
retract his comments instead of digging in his heels.

Now for my technical writing question to the list: Do you make much use of
"you" in your technical documentation? Have you run into limitations? What
would those limitations be?

Respectfully returning to the background,

Greg Cento
greg -at- focus-systems -dot- on -dot- ca
=46ocus Automation Systems Inc.

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