US vs. UK pronoun/voice usage?

Subject: US vs. UK pronoun/voice usage?
From: Janet_Swisher -at- trilogy -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 00:43:53 -0600

I've recently been reading a large quantity of source material from an SME
who happens to be British. (My company is located in Austin, Texas, USA.)
One thing I've noticed in his text is that he routinely uses the pronoun
"one", combined with passive voice, as in the following example:

For each view one wants to appear as a child item, the view must be
added to the collection.

I've always been told, and intuitively agreed, that writing is clearer and
more understandable when you use active voice, the second person, and
imperative. Thus, I would rewrite this sentence as something like:

Add to the collection each view that you want to appear as a child

(Granted, this sentence has other problems.)

But this SME's consistent use of this particular style, combined with my
stereotype of Brits makes me wonder whether this is a reflection of
cultural differences. I have the impression that the British view
Americans as being overly forward and over-friendly, and that they prefer
more interpersonal distance than Americans are inclined to assume. I
wonder if this SME's style is a way of creating a respectful distance
between the writer and the reader. I also wonder if documents written in
the style I prefer would not travel well to Britain.

I know this list has correspondents in the UK. Any of y'all :-) care to
set me straight? (Gently, please.) For what it's worth, yes, I have
visited the UK.

Janet Swisher
Trilogy Software, Inc.

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