Re: gender issues and tech.write

Subject: Re: gender issues and tech.write
From: Marie Clear <Mclear3000 -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 12 Dec 1995 12:26:53 -0500

In a message dated 95-12-11 16:35:10 EST, greg -at- FOCUS-SYSTEMS -dot- ON -dot- CA (Greg
Cento) writes:

> Do you make much use of "you" in your technical
> documentation? Have you run into limitations? What
> would those limitations be?

Actually, despite what my grade school teachers taught me,
I use personal pronouns a lot in my technical writing.

Aside from nicely skirting the "he/she" dilemma, using
"you" makes technical information more readable. I also use
"we" quite often, and have gotten *extremely* positive feedback
from readers. Besides, "you" makes it much easier to write in
active instead of passive voice.

The only limitation I find in using "you," ironically, is when
I *want* to use passive voice, since the switch is simply more
noticeable. Fortunately, the only times I actively try to use
passive voice is on internal documentation, usually in a summary
of a system problem or failure. Passive voice's biggest benefit
is in helping avoid say who did something. Very politically
incorrect to say "John Smith accidentally tripped over
the UNIX machine's power cord," when you could say, "The
main server's power cord was accidentally unplugged."
Makes John Smith much happier, too.


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