Anthropomorphic Phrases

Subject: Anthropomorphic Phrases
From: Matthew J Long <mjl100z -at- MAIL -dot- ODU -dot- EDU>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 10:47:36 -0400

This one's not in the archives:

I learaned and have always heard that using anthropomorphic phrases in
technical writing is a taboo and, in general, I avoid it, but I was
wondering what it is that makes it so bad? Any books that cover this?
Thoughts? Opinions?

Recently I was explaining how to use wild card characters when conducting
a search in a database when I wrote "When you enter a word or phrase in
one of the fields, the system will search for exact matches." What is
wrong with this phrase. It sort of gives the system a personality then,
but what makes that a bad thing? Maybe the users (who are primarily
attorneys and paralegals) would be more productive if they felt that the
computer was more... well .... human like (anthropomorphic).

I am not looking for suggestions as to how to rephrase the statement
above--I can do that. I am just curious as to why I should want to. Why
should I avoid anthropomorphic phrases? Is it just for the sake of doing
so, or is there true merit to this practice?

TIA for you thoughts?

Matthew J. Long
Technical Writer
mjl100z -at- mail -dot- odu -dot- edu
matt -dot- long -at- justice -dot- usdoj -dot- gov

-When you can't be eloquent, choose brevity!

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