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Gender in technical documentation

Discussion in 'The Lounge - Off Topic' started by Arroryn, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    I can't really see this one sparking a debate or anything, but I was reading a book yesterday on an introduction to Security.

    Every technical book I have read so far uses the male personal pronoun. Him, he, his, and so forth. At the beginning of a lot of them, they will write a small note disclaiming that whilst the male form is being used, women shouldn't be disuased from technical jobs, blah blah.

    This security book is the first I've read that refers to 'her'. She, her, hers... the 'techie' referred to throughout the book is always female.

    I thought it odd, and against the norm. What do the established technical writers out there think?

    I think it's amusing that in a book that describes how people subvert the system and generally bugger things up for techies around the world, the main 'protaganist' should be a woman :biggrin
     
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  2. NightWalker

    NightWalker Gigabyte Poster

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    Was the author male or female?
     
    Certifications: A+, Network+, MCP, MCSA:M 2003, ITIL v3 Foundation
  3. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    The author was male, apparently. Though I'm not sure if the name Tom Thomas is just particularly uncreative of the parents, or a poor nom de plume :)

    The book is Cisco's First Step Network Security. I am quite a fan of their First Step series. Although the grammatical editing in this book leaves somewhat to be desired, it seems a good introduction to what is quite a complex topic.

    It is certainly whetting my appetite for looking more in-depth at security later on. I am sincerely hoping though that, opposed to some intro-type books I have read, this one isn't riddled with basic errors that I will have to correct for myself later on when I read into more literature.
     
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  4. Phoenix
    Honorary Member

    Phoenix 53656e696f7220 4d6f64

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    I find books that alternate between the male and female pronouns on a chapter by chapter basis to make the most sense
    I'm glad I don't see to much of the he/she his/hers bull****, that's a pain in the ass to read! lol
     
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  5. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    I've noticed a general trend in the books I review to primarily use a female "protagonist" throughout. I suppose it's to compensate for generations of such books that addresses only males. In my last book, I alternated examples male/female as evenly as I could. That seems to make the most sense to me rather than presenting only males or only females.
     
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  6. sunn

    sunn Gigabyte Poster

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  7. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    I think the writer was too lazy to write the book where he (or she!) didn't have to choose one gender or another. I have yet to write a test question where a choice between "he" or "she" for a "generic tech" was absolutely required.

    That's not to say that I haven't written scenarios with male or female individuals... I have, and I use both. But when speaking in the generic, there are plenty of ways to write so you never have to say "he" or "she".
     
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  8. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    I don't think you have to avoid gender when writing technical documentation. Actually, it really depends. I maintain several manuals at my day job and gender is never an issue. I just refer to the generic "user" or "admin" and such. When reading test questions, I've noticed a general tendency (not referring to Transcender or Boson here) to personalize the questions. Something like, "Jim is the systems administrator for Goofball, Inc, an Enterprise level organization which mainly produces corporate goofballs. He wants to configure his Goofball 9000 router and..." Well, you get the idea. The next question could involve Sally, the CTO of the company, and after that, Bill, a first tier tech support guy, and on and on.

    Where's the problem?
     
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  9. zebulebu

    zebulebu Terabyte Poster

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    I think the best approach is to take a gender and stick with it throughout the book - with a little piece in the introduction stating that the author isn't intending to cause any offence by using male or female throughout. You could always offset this through judicious use of example scenarios through the book and randomly changing the sex of the protagonists.

    Personally speaking though, I think it should be relatively easy to identify most technical manuals that are aimed at women. They'll be the ones with 'Russell Hobbs' and 'Morphy Richards' on the covers, and neat little pictures of ovens & irons and stuff inside...
     
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  10. BosonMichael
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    BosonMichael Yottabyte Poster

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    That's fine... as I stated, I do that. But I'm talking about the tendency to use he/she when speaking of a "generic" tech, not a specific one (such as Jim, or Sally, or Bill). When speaking in the generic, you can almost always find another way to state your point instead of resorting to he/him or she/her.
     
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  11. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    Awww, but I really like making up names. :wink:
     
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  12. Arroryn
    Honorary Member

    Arroryn we're all dooooooomed

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    That's what I'd seen in most books so far, which is why the use of the female personal pronoun in this one surprised me. As far as general opinion appears though, it looks like I may just have to read more :rolleyes:

    And personally speaking, you would evidently like some pain? You also left out the book 'Offside Rule for Dummies'
     
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  13. grim

    grim Gigabyte Poster

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    my MCSE books mentioned both throughout

    Personally they should all be written for women real men don't read manuals, they just spend hours fiddling and then resorts to using the hammer :p

    Grim
     
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  14. tripwire45
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    tripwire45 Zettabyte Poster

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    I suspect the only hammer we're about to see is the one Arroryn applies to Grim's head. :twisted:
     
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  15. Tinus1959

    Tinus1959 Gigabyte Poster

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    In most Microsoft exams the admins are also female, at least, I get that impression.
     
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