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Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

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UNIX

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:27 am

Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Hello,
not really technically but something I am thinking a little bit about.
The questions is if it is more "professional" or "better" to write something with using the word "you" or something in more general like "it" and not addressing to any person.

Examples what i mean:
1) Before you can use this feature you have to enable it in the settings.
2) Before this feature can be used it has to be enabled in the settings.

1) While the tests nothing odd happened.
2) While my tests nothing odd happened.

As English is not my main language I would like to know which is better to use and which do you personally prefer in articles, reviews etc.

Only thing I came up with is that you should use whatever you choose for the whole article.
Last edited by UNIX on Mon Jun 15, 2009 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ethicalhack3r

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:12 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

The questions is if it is more "professional" or "better" to write something with using the word "you" or something in more general like "it" and not addressing to any person.


Not too sure to be honest.
1) Before you can use this feature you have to enable it in the settings.
2) Before this feature can be used it has to be enabled in the settings.


2) Sounds/looks better.
1) While the tests nothing odd happened.
2) While my tests nothing odd happened.


Depends on whether or not your reffering to YOUR tests or some one elses tests.

While should be replaced with 'during'.

2) During my tests nothing odd happened.
or
2) While carrying out my tests nothing odd happened.

I have a powerpoint presentation from uni on writting reports I can send you if you wish.
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UNIX

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:37 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

That would be nice and much appreciated. :)

The two sentences were just examples. I am writing all articles and reviews by myself of course, but personally I think it is better to write in a general style although the readers may then not be as appealed (hope this is the correct word for this) as in the other way.
Last edited by UNIX on Mon Jun 15, 2009 9:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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ethicalhack3r

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:07 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Sent you the slides, hope they are useful to you.
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venom77

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:10 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Don may have some good advice for you here :)

I am not an English major, so I'm not sure if one is supposed to be better than the other.

As for your examples above, I would select #2 - "before this feature can be used it has to be enabled in the settings."

And also as you've mentioned, being consistent is key.
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UNIX

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:35 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Thanks for your thoughts and especially thanks for the slides, ethicalhack3r. :) I will read through them this week.

Yeah, I thought EH may be a good place for my question as there are some great authors and writers.
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don

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:47 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Hey UNIX,

Great thread as many ask about ways to boost their resume, and writing is definitley one of those ways.

Using "you" is considered less professional. So it depends on your style and the purpose of the writing. As an example, for an opinion piece to a tech crowd or something that is less formal, "you" is fine. For a press release, "you" is frowned upon.

As an aside, "you" is also recommended to be removed from your vocabulary when dealing with people in technical manners whether it is desktop support or reviewing reports from your pen tests. People react less harshly when you state a comment about a problem and don't use "you." Studies and experience show that they take it personally. Although as techies we could honestly say that it is their desktop or their organization, so it IS their fault. People just don't like to hear it. And thus the problems get resolved with less pain on both ends.

Hope that helps,
Don
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unsupported

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:55 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

I've dabbled in technical writing my entire career I find it easier just to rewrite the sentences without needing to rely on the word.

For example:
1) Before you can use this feature you have to enable it in the settings.
2) Before this feature can be used it has to be enabled in the settings.

This feature needs to be enabled before use.

1) While the tests nothing odd happened.
2) While my tests nothing odd happened.

Nothing odd happened during the tests.

It is a tricky and sticky slope when trying to be formal and technical.

Using the MLA format, popular in college, may be a good start.  http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/
-Un
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Ignatius

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 1:35 pm

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

I agree with don and unsupported.  I've written many reports (not related to IT) and have never used the second person ("you").  If I have to, I use the third person, but prefer to avoid the situation by rephrasing the sentences as suggested by unsupported.

I'd be happy to look through the article for you awesec, providing it isn't a 10,000 word thesis!
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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 2:02 pm

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

This is fantastic information.  I am really glad this thread was started.  Of course, now I have to go back and do some minor revisions on a report I thought I had finished :)

For those of you who are writers, do you have any recommendations for some literature on technical writing?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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ants

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Post Mon Jun 15, 2009 5:42 pm

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Hi awesec,

I agree, this is an interesting post.

I have to say that I am jealous of your English, it is very good considering that it is not your main language. I regret that as a native English speaker I never learned another language.

I agree with don, try to avoid the 'you' word; people take it personally and may get offended.

I like the http://www.guardian.co.uk/styleguide. It might not be what you are looking for but it hi-lights some of the more common errors in English writing.

Ants
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UNIX

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Post Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:22 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Thanks for all replies done so far. This really helped me.

I used the time yesterday evening and corrected two reviews I have done recently and tried to adhere to the recommendations given. Especially as I haven't done any "public" articles and reviews in English yet this was very important for me. Also an English article I wrote will be printed this year by a security magazine. As I have still time until it must be delivered I will also reread it and correct if necessary.

Ants: Thanks for your kind words :>

I will also check the guide by guardian, thanks for mentioning it.
Last edited by UNIX on Tue Jun 16, 2009 12:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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former33t

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Post Tue Jun 16, 2009 7:20 pm

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

I'm late on this, but for what little it is worth, I completely agree with unsupported.  Rephrasing to include as few words as possible (without using "you") is best.  It is an art though.  Luckily my wife majored in communications, so I have a proofreader at home.
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UNIX

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Post Thu Jul 09, 2009 3:21 am

Re: Writing articles - using "you" or "it"?

Since my last post in this thread I was able to rephrase everything I have written so far for magazines etc., which was not published yet, so thank you very much. :)
Gladly I only found a few sentences where I used it by accident.

Also I checked articles which where already published and found that I haven't used any form of you in them. :)

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