Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases

Subject: Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases
From: Mike Collier - SSG <MikeCol -at- SBSERVICES -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 11:04:53 -0400

I think a lot of unclear engineering writing comes from the use of
passive voice, awkward constructions, etc. to avoid humanizing machines.
You could call this the "Frankenstein syndrome," whereby the
creator-engineer avoids personalizing his-her creations as much as
possible, out of fear that those creations could turn into something
that can't be controlled. Of course, that happens anyway...

When I read your post I was working on the following:

The Z99 System monitors the D directory for orders ... When it sees a
files in this directory, it imports them into a temporary file...

I always use an anthropomorphic style to begin with, because it comes
naturally and is often clearer. If I sense an engineer bristling at some
of this phrasing, I know the shadow of Frankenstein is looming and maybe
I'll tweak a few things.

Michael Collier
SOFTBANK Services Group
Buffalo, NY
mailto:MikeCol -at- sbservices -dot- com

>From: Matthew J Long[SMTP:mjl100z -at- MAIL -dot- ODU -dot- EDU]
>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?

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