Avoiding personification of things?

Subject: Avoiding personification of things?
From: CASSIN Gilles <GCassin -at- MEGA -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 24 Mar 1999 14:41:20 +0100

Mike McGraw wrote:
<We try so hard to create intelligent systems and then we deny them a
little bit
<of life. <sigh>
as regards
>"To fire the triac pulse at the proper time, the ASP driver must know
>which phase powers each lamp block."
I think the problem in this sentence is not personification, but that
the reader wonders How does it "know" that. Is it "must be adjusted
according to the phase powers...", "has to be connected to the lamp
blocks in order to determine their phases", etc., or "If information
about the phase powers of each lamp isn't available for the ASP driver,
tuning the triac pulse at the proper time is impossible".
As a comment, I would say (that's true for me and several of my ex and
present colleagues) that IMHO most of the times, when a sentence seems
awkward, this is not due to words or grammar, but rather to the way it
carries meaning.
I fully agree with Geoffrey Hart's note on the importance of avoiding
the anthropomophism in guides and GUI (which I read after writing the
first part of this message), though this opinion is not that widespread.
Is this the reason for Office 97 compromise with the nagging paperclip?

mailto:gcassin -at- mega -dot- com
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