Re: 3rd person vs. 2nd person

Subject: Re: 3rd person vs. 2nd person
From: "Tom Murrell" <tmurrell -at- columbus -dot- rr -dot- com>
To: Janis Hill <Janis_Hill -at- wfsfinancial -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 25 Oct 1999 19:01:53 -0400

Janis Hill writes, in part:

>> > I work at a financial company writing and updating a policy and
> procedure manual. Currently, the manuals in our department are written in
> third person because various audiences are addressed throughout each
> manual. Using second person with more than one audience may cause confusion
> as to who is being addressed in a given piece of writing.


>> > What are your thoughts on this issue??
>> >
>> > Janis Hill

I have no beef, per se, with third person anymore than I have a beef with
passive voice. Both have their place in writing and in the language,
prescriptive rules makers to the contrary.

But you did push one of my hot buttons when you wrote that you have manuals
that address more than one audience. I will agree that you can have
secondary audiences who will read a document, but I firmly believe that a
document can have only ONE primary audience. I know some people on this
list are unhappy with the idea of doing audience analysis, but that's the
only way I've ever found to handle the perceived need for one document to
speak to multiple audiences. Once I've been able to understand the needs of
these multiple audiences, I've been able to devise documentation approaches
that meet those needs without violating my belief that each discrete
document needs to focus on one, and only one, audience.

So far--knock on wood--I've been able to win my fights to keep the focus of
documentation on one audience per document.

I'm sure there will be plenty who disagree.

Tom Murrell

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