WRITING USER-FRIENDLY DOCUMENTS
Address One Person, Not a Group
Singular nouns and verbs prevent confusion about whether a
requirement applies to individual readers or to groups.
In the following example, the reader doesn't know whether each applicant must file
applications at several offices, or whether applicants who are members of a group must
file individual requests.
|Individuals and organizations wishing to apply must file applications
with the appropriate offices in a timely manner.||You must apply at
least 30 days before you need the certification.|
(a) If you are an individual, apply at the
State office in the State where you reside.
(b) If you are an organization, apply at
the State office in the State where your headquarters is located.
In addressing a single person, you can avoid awkwardness by using "you" to address
the reader directly, rather than using "his or her" or "he or she."
|The applicant must provide his or her mailing
address and his or her identification number.||
You must provide your mailing address and identification number.|
Your reader probably will need only a single permit, application, or license. Thus,
writing in the singular means that it will apply to the reader as written,
eliminating the need to "translate."
Use the singular whenever possible.