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I am writing some documentation for a piece of software and I am struggling on what pronouns to use.

I didn't want to use gender related pronouns as my subject is the user so I used they/their, but it doesn't feel right hence my question to clarify how common technical documents are written regarding pronouns. Usually I write something like

The user can press that button if they want to have their needs met.

Is it a normal way to write?

Another way to solve this problem would just be to use the plural users but it's not the ideal solution either.

I am not interested in the gender talk here, however I think it is important to note that technical documentation is for everyone and even people who may not agree with this conversation, hence I am looking for the common way technical documentation is written as well as the general grammatically correct way.

There is a similar conversation about general pronouns but here I want to be specific to technical documentation and the common usage of the user + the user's pronouns in a technical environment.

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  • Does your organisation have a style guide?
    – nick012000
    May 24 at 8:31
  • @nick012000 Sadly we don't, it's a young company
    – Jack
    May 24 at 8:52
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    Writing.SE has a 'technical writing' tag, and questions asking about preferred technical styles are almost certainly more appropriately asked there. You could use singular they/them/their but add a warning that you are doing so; general English is in a state of flux hereabouts. May 24 at 15:24
  • My problem with what you wrote is that I think 'needs met' is too general, and may be misinterpreted. There may be a way to avoid using 'their' if you specify what exactly will be the result of pressing the button May 24 at 20:08
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    Whatever solution you choose, it's always good to 1) be consistent and 2) watch out for any possible sources of confusion (e.g., if singular "they" might be interpreted as referring to some plural noun). May 24 at 23:31

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I used to be a tech writer and dealt with this all the time. One thing to remember is that your content will probably be translated, and the singular “they” could cause confusion. I went with plurals most of the time, but passive voice is a good way to recast without pronouns. (There’s nothing wrong with passive voice, especially for system responses, you just don’t want to use it all the time.)

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