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Re: empowering the user and traditional tech writing - style discussion



O/H Karsten Wade έγραψε:
> We need to discuss our writing style approach; I think it's too late for
> FC6, so we need to stick with what works for now.  But Paul W. Frields
> challenged me with the idea of empowering the user and having a specific
> style to support that.
> 
> In traditional tech writing, we try not to use pronouns yet keep an
> active voice.  It makes for a cleaner writing, easier to translate, and
> has fewer assumptions implied about the reader, which helps to make it
> more accessible.  It also sounds less like marketspeak[1] and
> cheerleader-writing[2].
> 
> For example:
> 
> "You can click on Applications > Sound & Video > CD Player to start the
> audio CD application."
> 
> v.
> 
> "Click on Applications > Sound & Video > CD Player to start the audio CD
> application."
> 
> And so forth.
> 
> However, a blanket rule to "never use 'you'" might be wrong.  At the
> least, we can discuss here what we want to do.  Perhaps we can break
> some new ground, or at least join the 21st century. ;-D
> 
> - Karsten
> 
> [1] Markestpeak == language used in marketing products/services, which
> is deliberately personal
> 
> [2] Cheerleader-writing == my term for writing with lots of exclamation
> points!  You'll love it!  Or not!  But you just can't make it stop!
> Yes, I used to edit my high school newspaper.

The use of 'you' is even more tricky in some languages (like greek), where the
plural 'you' is different and the adjectives/etc change too. For example,
translating "Are you sure you want to insert this?" becomes something like:

  "Είσαι σίγουρος πως θέλεις να το εισάγεις αυτό;"
  =
  "Are you (singular number exposed) sure (masculine gender exposed) you want
(singular) to insert (singular) this?"

So, we try to hide it, by using plural form and indirect speech:

  "Σίγουρα να γίνει η εισαγωγή αυτού του αντικειμένου;"
  =
  "Surely should this to be inserted?"

Of course, this leads to *even more* formal/distant/indirect writing than just
avoiding the presence of the word 'you' and even less user-motivation as Karsten
mentioned.

So, what's my opinion on this? Not sure. Probably something in the middle. The
text does seem of better quality and is more accessible. On the other hand, if
people don't read it (or it doesn't have an effect), it's useless.

One could see two groups of texts here:

  1. The guides/tutorials
  2. formal, must-be-objective texts, like press releases, encyclopedia
articles, short-texts like application buttons).

The goals of the guides are to not bore the user (have him read the whole text)
and urge him to do something. It's more like giving him a hand than stating
things, which is more like the second group. Having a slightly less formal
wording in these cases might accomplish their goals in a better way than the
formal wording.

-dim


PS: Please excuse my poor english. If I wasn't clear, I agree with Karsten. ;-)


-- 
Dimitris Glezos
Jabber ID: glezos jabber org, GPG: 0xA5A04C3B
http://dimitris.glezos.com/


"He who gives up functionality for ease of use
loses both and deserves neither." (Anonymous)
--


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