Re: Article on Debian Women
Quoting cathy gramze (firstname.lastname@example.org):
> 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.
Not only in English. We have the same difference between formal
and informal documentation writing in French. Moreover, my own
personal culture of scientific publications, both in English and
French, makes me often use a very neutral wording, and often indeed
the passive form.
This especially applies to a program official documentation while this
may be different for a book *about* a given program....
In documentation writing, there is no strict "forbidding" of using the
second person. The only one strict requirement is NEVER EVER use the
FIRST person (and, dammit, we still have a bunch of things in Debian
which DO NOT respect this and say "I will do this" or "We recommend
The problem of second person in English in also translation. We all
know that the use in each language is very different about that
(du/Sie in german, tu/usted in Spanish, tu/vous in French). Depending
on the country, the second singular person may sound as very
familiar...or just not too informal : I would for instance never use
"tu" in French documentation and man pages while it seems that this is
not a big problem for other languages.
So, avoiding second person in English is also a way to help
translators not having headaches...
> 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.
I sometime use he/she, especially in situation where I want to make
very clear that I do have concerns about gender neutrality...so quite
often in my free software work..:-)...however, I often forget also so
I'm sometimes inconsistent on that matter (but my concerns are not