Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases

Subject: Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases
From: John Kohl <sasjqk -at- UNX -dot- SAS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 5 Aug 1997 19:54:07 GMT

In article <Pine -dot- GSO -dot- 3 -dot- 95 -dot- 970805103238 -dot- 21612A-100000 -at- nassau>, Matthew J Long
<mjl100z -at- MAIL -dot- ODU -dot- EDU> writes:
|> This one's not in the archives:
|> I learned 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?

I think there are degrees of anthropomorphism, and it can be difficult
to decide whether a particular instance has "crossed the line." Also,
based on comments from overseas reviewers, I believe that speakers of
some languages are less tolerant of anthropomorphism than speakers of
English, so if you are writing for an international audience, you might
need to be more strict about eliminating such phrases.

Here's one example that I recently encountered:

[X] variables hold temporary values that do not need to be displayed
to users.

For me, this sentence "crossed the line" because values really don't
have needs. And there was an easy solution. I rephrased it as:

[X] variables hold temporary values that users do not need to see.


John Kohl

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