I was giving an example and was trying to immerse the reader in the experience as much as possible and made up a man's name.

Consider the following example: Joseph is testing a program built for Windows XP.

I was told not to use the name Joseph but use "the client". What difference does this make and how do I know when it's inappropriate to use people's names when giving an example?

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    An actual name (vs. "a user") will take focus off of the subject (the program, the test, whatever) as your readers' mind will undoubtedly wander to the thought, "who's Joseph?". IMHO. :-) Jul 22, 2013 at 18:12
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    I agree with using "the client", but it can get very awkward if you're using that over and over again. If examples must be long and detailed, "Alice" and "Bob" are nice go-to names that people understand.
    – Jeremy
    Jul 22, 2013 at 20:25

1 Answer 1


It's not bad. Bad is unethical. We're not talking ethics here.

But it is potentially dangerous. To any number of people or projects.

Anything you present to a client is, of course, actually coming from your employer, and the clients know this. However, the clients are also aware that whatever you're presenting is also going to be interpreted to their customers as coming from them (if they do business with the software) or as coming from the client's management to its employees (if it's internal).

And that's the basis they judge it on. Either case can touch on sensitive issues (that you probably know nothing about), and being careless about names, or using sophomoric humor (like naming somebody Dilbert, for instance) is unlikely to endear one to the client, or to one's boss.

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