Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases

Subject: Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases
From: "S. Cottrell" <steph -at- SCOTTRELL -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 10:52:00 -0700

At 10:47 AM 8/5/97 -0400, Matthew J Long wrote:
>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?
>should I avoid anthropomorphic phrases? Is it just for the sake of doing
>so, or is there true merit to this practice?

Maybe it's the benefit of not having a "classic" tech-writing education,
but I've never heard that you're not supposed to anthropomorphize. In
fact, some of the best computer books I read use metaphors to tell you what
the computer is doing.

Now, I can understand why you'd want to limit the amount of
anthropomorphizing. Telling people that their computer is doing something
as an entity makes the people forget that a computer is just a tool.
That's when you get the tech support call-- "My computer decided not to
print anymore." Or "It just didn't like me-- so it crashed!"

On the other hand, portraying the computer as a helpful but not terribly
bright entity (the stupid slave concept, I guess) does get novice users to
relate better to their machines. I realize that most of us don't have this
problem, but there are people in the world who are scared to death of their
computers. They're afraid that they're either going to hurt it or wear it
out, or that they're going to be hurt BY it ("I don't want to use my
computer because of viruses.") Making the computer seem like a friend is
the first step in getting people to accept them as tools.

Stephanie C.
S. Cottrell
Technical and Business Writer
steph -at- scottrell -dot- com

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