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I have this question on using see and refer in technical documentation especially for cross-references information.

I use see when mentioning another section in the same document, for example, for more information on xyz, see section abc on page nn-mm.

I use refer when asking the reader to see an external document or any appendices, for example, for more information on xyz, refer to the ABC Guide or for more information, refer to Appendix A.

My colleagues and I have a disagreement with this logic. They seem to prefer see for everything. As a cross-reference is more like a footnote and also acts like a footnote.

Is my logic correct?

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    One difference is that see directs you to go look - easy enough within the document. Refer implies you can look if want all that work - a bother in another document. So, a fair distinction. Commented Apr 9 at 21:33

3 Answers 3

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Both are actually correct. The OED has:

The imperative see is used in books to refer to a passage in the same or some other work in which information will be found.

for see and:

To direct the attention of (a person) to a source of information (in earlier use chiefly a book).

for refer.

So it's really just a matter of preference.

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  • This is what I find on the NOAD too.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 11:52
-1

Nah. This doesn't seem correct to me:

For more information on xyz, refer to section abc on page nn-mm.

This sounds correct but is clunky and too wordy:

For more information on xyz, the author refers the reader to section abc on page nn-mm.

Just instinctively, it feels like I refer someone to something or I can refer to something when I am talking to someone. But using "refer" to mean go look at it just doesn't seem correct.

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    This is a opinion rather than an answer. It would be useful to look at the guidance on answers.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Apr 9 at 10:00
-2

As a Technical Author:

  • If the content I am directing the reader to is located within the same document, I use:

"SEE: 'Section heading' "

  • If the content is found in another place / document (Outside of the current document...), then I use:

"Refer: , i.e. www.OED.co.uk or 'Another Document about stuff that mentions this thing.' "

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  • Wow: "Refer: , i.e. www.OED.co.uk or 'Another Document about stuff that mentions this thing.' " is terrible punctuation/style. What's that comma doing? Why "i.e."? Why is Document capitalized?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 9 at 9:17

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