Usage and Grammar
Q. I am currently editing chapters for eight engineers who are writing a technical book. Several use the style of writing that I call the “we” style, for example, “We should now add this code in the command line.” I am trying to direct them in the direction of talking to the reader using the “you” style, by rephrasing the same sentence to say, “You should add this code to your command line.” Or, even better “Add this code to your command line.” My problem is that some of them are balking at this tone and want to know what I’m basing this change on. I have tried to find some definite rules regarding this, but so far have not. Can you give me some references regarding this?
A. It’s true that “we” is somewhat precious and dated for a technical book, but it’s not wrong to use it, if that’s the voice your writers want to project. If they won’t bow to your authority, then just take a vote and proceed accordingly. If the publisher has done similar books in the past, you might look to those books as models.