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Re: Being excellent to one another

From: John Darrington
Subject: Re: Being excellent to one another
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2017 07:36:19 +0100
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.23 (2014-03-12)

On Sun, Mar 19, 2017 at 07:57:07PM -0700, address@hidden wrote:
     On Sun, 19 Mar 2017 17:40:27 -0500
     Christopher Allan Webber <address@hidden> wrote:
     > The important thing is to not assume someone's preferred pronouns
     > without knowing them.  Singular they isn't your only option; I also
     > happen to like Spivak pronouns:
     The problem here is that I'd be suprised if many people have even heard
     about these. I used to play MUDs quite a bit and have /never/ heard any
     of those. They are certainly not a part of common usage, and I'd say
     should be avoided for something more standard (them et al). It's a nice
     idea, but overall seems like it would cause confusion, and probably
     more than a few "Hey, there is a typo in the manual"-type bugs than

     At least, if I picked up a random bit of documentation and saw things
     like "e" used constantly, I'd assume it was a typo and not some archaic
     gender-neutral pronoun.

I tend to agree.  These invented aspects of language are kindof fun for 
informal use but out of place in a user manual.    In a manual we should
stick to proper English - put yourself in the position of a person who
is learning English as a second language.  That person has spent months
attending language school and is starting to become confident then picks
up a manual and sees the words "pis" and "per".  It's enough to throw you
off your stride. (I remember something similar happening to me when learning
a foriegn language: I started reading a novel, and there was lots of dialogue
all in regional dialect. I felt like giving up.)

Fortunately in a user manual one very rarely needs a personal *definite* 
In GNU manuals, the long standing practise is to refer to the person using the 
program, as "you".  Occasionally a personal *indefinite* pronoun is called for 
luckily in English we have a perfect gender neutral one, viz: "one".

Some authors religiously avoid the whole issue altogether by writing every 
sentence in the passive voice - but that makes the manual extremely hard to 
understand even for very patient readers.

When writing texts, such as this email, and absolutely  *have* to use a personal
definite pronoun, I default to "she" because whereas vigilantes will pounce upon
you whenever they see "he" (ironically those people are invariably male), I've 
never had anyone complain when "she" occurs where the gender of the subject 
might well be masculine.

... and yes.  If an individual specifically requests to be referred to by
a partcular set of pronouns I will attempt to do so, but may occasionally
forget if that person wants feminine pronouns and is 6'4" and has an enormous
black wiry beard.


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