TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Subject:Re: Use of Second Person From:Tracy Boyington <trlyboyi -at- GENESIS -dot- ODVTE -dot- STATE -dot- OK -dot- US> Date:Thu, 14 Dec 1995 11:34:47 +0000
Mercedes Abels wrote:
> I work in a utility vehicle industry, writing documentation for vehicles
> that will be used for work on live wire electrical line repair.
> Documentation has to be very precise and clear. We have one writer who
> refuses to use a he/she convention on the grounds that it is
> cumbersome and unrealistic because "most" line repair operators will be male.
> We also operate under a policy mandate that "you" is not appropriate in
> a manual because it is too familiar. (a silly reason in my opinion, but
> hey, even in a team environment where each employee is empowered, we
> don't always get to do what we believe is best)
> So. I am looking for support for the use of you instead of "the operator"
> or "the person in the platform," etc.
To me, this is a textbook example of when you should use second
person. Why is it "too familiar" to the reader to say "Press the reset button
before you begin" instead of saying "The user should press the reset
button before he begins?"
Technical Communication Specialist
Oklahoma Department of Vocational & Technical Education
I never express opinions, but if one slips out, it belongs
to me and not ODVTE.