Use of Pronouns in writing documentation and tutorial scripts

brothertruffle880
brothertruffle880 used Ask the Experts™
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What are the rules/guidelines regarding the use of "You",  "I" and other pronouns in writing user manuals and other documentation.
Are there any specific rules for tutorial scripts which will be used by on-screen narrators/talent or tutorial voice over talent?
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Dr. KlahnPrincipal Software Engineer

Commented:
Each individual company has their own rules about this.  There are many books on technical writing offering many different approaches, but it is nugatory to write in format A7 if the customer wants it in C3.

Eventually it all comes down to practicality:  Find out what (your employer / the customer) wants and do it that way.

The same applies to video and audio narration.
The "rules" about when to use specific personal pronouns (I, me, you, him, her, he, she, it, we, they, one) are dictated by:
- Whether the sentence or statement requires reference to first, second, or third person
- Whether the gender needs to be masculine, feminine, or neutral
- Whether you are using a singular, plural, or generic reference.

Whatever personal pronoun you choose to use for the particular set of circumstances, you must obviously also match the:
- Possessive determiner (my, your, is, her, its, our, their, one's)
- Possessive pronoun (mine, yours, his, hers, its, ours, theirs, one's).  Avoid "its" and "one's" unless qualified by a following word that makes sense of the statement, like "its own".

Whether you choose to refer to yourself in the singular (I, my, mine) or plural (we, our, ours) is really down to whether you want to be perceived as an individual or as the representative of a group of people or an organisation.  There is one expert here on Experts-Exchange wo consistently uses "we" and "our" in is answers even though he is a one-man-band consultant.  He probably wants to be perceived as being the leading representative of a larger company because it seems more influential than just one person's opinion.  You often find this with one-man developers of programs or applications.  They often refer to themselves in the plural so that they appear to comprise more than just one guy at a keyboard.  The same is often true of a one-man landscaping company, emergency locksmith, car mechanic, and so on.

If you are the senior manager (top dog) of a company and you are issuing a directive or personal decision, you would obviously use I, my, and mine rather than we, us, and ours, however if you are the same manager and your directive or instruction relates to a company policy or finding that has been discussed by a group of managers, you would usually use we, us, our, and and ours because you are only the spokesperson.

If you were giving a company presentation about your research or something similar to outsiders, you would usually refer to the audience (or the audience's company) using you, your, and yours, but if you were addressing people within your own organisation you would usually use we, us, our, and ours because you are all part of the same organisation.

There are no real "rules" about when to use particular personal pronouns.  You use whatever one fits best for the circumstances, audience, and content of the presentation.

In general if you are writing a user manual for something you would use the plural form and say things like "we suggest that you do this" or "our suggestion for carrying it out is this".

Author

Commented:
Thank you all for your contributions and advice.
I guess I wasn't specific enough in my question. I'm looking for best practices guides and examples of video scripts and manuals. Or templates of tutorial scrips and manuals.
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Developer
Fellow 2017
Most Valuable Expert 2018
Commented:
> best practices guides

For writing in general, I recommend the AP Stylebook:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AP_Stylebook

But there are plenty of other writing style guides:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_style_guides

Note, especially, the ones in the "For the computer industry (software and hardware)" section, one of which is available online as a PDF:
Acorn Technical Publications Style Guide

I haven't used all of the guides in that list, but I'm certain that they all have guidelines on the use of pronouns in writing, which are applicable, imo, to documentation and tutorial scripts. Regards, Joe

Author

Commented:
useful resources. Thanks!
Joe WinogradDeveloper
Fellow 2017
Most Valuable Expert 2018

Commented:
You're welcome. I'm glad you find them to be useful. Good luck with your writing! Regards, Joe

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