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Re: Article on Debian Women

On Sun, 12 Dec 2004 16:08:38 +0100
Jutta Wrage <jw@witch.westfalen.de> wrote:

> Related to the discussion on newsforge I have a question to the 
> audience: When I was young, I learned that english manuals use "you" 
> (second person) instead of third person and something like "man" in 
> German language. Now it seems that this is mostly reversed to using 
> "he" instead of "you" and talking to directly to the user in a manual. 
> Is that US specific? Why did that change? Couldn't we try to reverse 
> the change? It is not only that using "you" is gender neutral, I think 
> it is more user friendly at all talking to the reader directly in a 
> manual.

The third person is, unfortunately, the most common voice in which most manuals and documentation are written in English. The second voice is considered to be too informal for "professional" writing. This is very slowly changing as the functional illiteracy rate in the US skyrockets. The formal third person is becoming just too difficult for many Americans to read and comprehend.

The use of "he" in English for a person of unknown gender was standard, and was commonly regarded as including women, until the feminist movement in the early 1970s. I find the use of "he/she" to be stilted, and to interrupt the flow of what I am reading. 

So I agree with you completely. Switching to the second person would solve all kinds of problems both in political correctness and readability. It would make manuals much less a chore to read.


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