Survey of responses to "use of 'you' " question

Subject: Survey of responses to "use of 'you' " question
From: Joanne Meehl <Jmeehl -at- datum -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 30 Nov 1999 08:54:14 -0500

Hi all,
There were over 40 responses to my posting yesterday, asking about
the use of "you" in technical documentation. Not the implied use, nor the
imperative, but actually using "you".

What a passionate bunch we are! There were loud voices both for and
against such usage.

Thank you all. I began to respond to each individual but the
response became too overwhelming.

First, I've gotta say this, especially for the staff and alums of
the program I'm in, OR for those made ballistic by this topic:
When I mentioned that two of my instructors at Northeastern were
"anti-you", I may have inadvertantly created the impression they are rigid,
stuffy, and ivory tower-ish, and that the Tech Comm program there is the
same. NO WAY!!! Several responders condemned "academic types". Jeez! Cool
your jets! Northeastern's profs are ALL in their field. No ivory tower, this
school. That's why I go there. Now that I've read all the pro and con
comments, I can better place the instructors' comments in context. I now
think they were making the strong point in order to impress upon novices
like us that overuse of any technique is poor style. And of course, they
repeat the mantra many of us use on this list and on the job: *it depends on
the audience*.

That said, fully 4:1 writers who responded say they use "you" in
technical documentation. And only when the imperative on its own isn't

Many of you (pro or con) took a lot of time to write well-reasoned
answers. You made several points that really help this newbie, in the field
and on the job all of 2 1/2 months. I am really impressed by the level of
expertise--and quality writing, thank goodness--of so many on this list.

Thank you again!

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