Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases

Subject: Re: Anthropomorphic Phrases
From: Shorter Rankin <srank -at- PACBELL -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 6 Aug 1997 01:08:49 +0800

On Tue, 5 Aug 1997 10:47:36 -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?


My opinion: Using anthropomorphic phrases in technical writing
patronizes the user. The best example I can think of is the
Wordstar 2000 tutorial from 1986; you're too young to remember
that so I'll paint you a picture. Imagine yourself seated at the
computer. The tutorial starts. "Hi I'm your new yadyadayada and
I'm going to blahblahblah, but first we're going to..." The
tutorial continues in this vein for the next half hour as an
animated stick figure hops around the screen explaining all the
ways Wordstar 2000 is going to make your life just peachy.

Users can sense when they're being patronized. They can, if they
think about it, recognize the unspoken communication. Computer
programs are written by members of a special class. This class
possesses sacred knowledge not shared by other members of
society. We refer to them as shamans (programmers).

Times have changed thank heavens. The rule derived from the mid
1980s. Any tech writer producing stuff equivalent to the
Wordstar 2000 tutorial would be unemployed - pronto.

You cited descriptive text about a database search . Nothing
objectionable in it, as others have commented.
You want to avoid the cutesy stuff. OTOH if you release a piece
of software, give a party and declare "Now let's see if the dogs
will eat the dogfood..."

I rest my



Shorter Rankin
Sacramento, CA
visit my new web site (special thanks to Paula P, Dan B, Susan W
G, and others for their comments)

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