Re: Use of Second Person

Subject: Re: Use of Second Person
From: Tom Davey <tdavey -at- IBM -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 13:52:35 EST

** Reply to note from George Allaman <gallama -at- LOOKOUT -dot- ECTE -dot- USWC -dot- USWEST -dot- COM>
5:09pm -0700

> Personally I find the use of "you" - in user guides in particular -
> repulsive, although I can't make a convincing argument as to why. It seems
> overly familiar, as if treating the reader like a child, as if I were
> writing a personal letter rather than a procedure. I avoid it where I can,
> but sometimes it is simply the only way out. I find the implied second
> person of the imperative mood a little less offensive, since it doesn't
> seem to be trying to anthropomorphize the document.

> Let the opinions fly.

Duck, here comes one now! "You" is definitely appropriate for novice users and
any readers who
might be put off by an overly formal or technical tone. What you find
condescending they find
friendly--a good attitude for any writer to adopt when telling readers about
material they find

Right now in TECHWR-L we've got a separate thread going about using
considerations apply. It's also amazing how often second person address can get
you out of
passive construction jams and absurd personifications of hardware boxes and
electron activity.


Metatext Writing Services * * * Tom Davey
Writing for the computer networking industry
tdavey -at- ibm -dot- net * 415-621-4880 (voice) * 415-431-7715 (fax)

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