A Study of Analogy and Person in Computer Documentation. Preliminary Report
Over the past several years, technical communicators have been struggling to change some of the stylistic traditions inherited from scientific discourse. Rhetoricians, writing teachers, and psychologists all agree that the use of analogy and first- or second-person sentence construction make for more effective communication than the absence of analogy and the use of the impersonal third person. However, established conventions and standards sometimes preclude inserting these stylistic devices into our material. With only an intuitive feel for the use of language, our arguments lack the substantive basis with which to change the standards. In order to examine the discrepancy between theory and practice, an experiment with computer documentation was conducted to measure the effects of analogy and second-person construction in learning, and another to assess whether these same stylistic devices were annoying to subject matter experts. The use of analogy made it easier for subjects to recall information without being cued; however, it had no effect on cued recall (recognition). Computer programmers were indifferent to the use of analogy (not hostile), and they preferred the second person sentence construction to the third person. (Author/JB)
Soderston, C. & German, C. A Study of Analogy and Person in Computer Documentation. Preliminary Report.