Re: Contractions in User Guides

Subject: Re: Contractions in User Guides
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 11:18:02 -0800

At 6:01 PM 12/11/95, Karen Mayer wrote:
> I noticed that quite a few manuals contain contractions these days, and
> wondered how widespread their use is. I don't mind them, but I was taught
> to write out the words instead. Do you use contractions? If so, why? If
> not, why not? (Has any research been done on this topic?)

I use contractions sparingly throughout my user manuals. Were I creating a
true reference guide, I might not use them at all. It would depend on the
product, the audience, and a bunch of other things.

Years ago, technical information was presented in the most formal language
the writer could muster. I remember the user guide for my CPM version of
CalcStar was written *entirely* in the third person and passive voice. It
was absolutely *horrible* -- hard to read and as boring as anything I've
ever read in my life.

Times change, conventions change, and we learn from mistakes -- both our own
and those of others. I know that even those who like to read don't necessarily
want to read what I'm writing, so I try to make the reading as painless as
possible for them. This includes a conversational, informal tone that uses
contractions when not using them would sound overly stiff and formal.

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