Posted by: episystechpubs | October 30, 2013

Editor’s Corner: Simile and personification

The last two categories of figurative language that I have for you are personification and simile. If you’ve sent things through the Symitar editing queue, you’ve probably seen requests to “stop personifying the system.” Personification is the act of attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects. In creative writing, it is perfectly fine to say things like “the blue screen of death looked back at me mockingly,” but in technical writing, this doesn’t cut it.

Some other examples of objects and ideas personified (from Your Dictionary):

  • The stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky.
  • The first rays of morning tiptoed through the meadow.
  • The thunder grumbled like an old man.

The other category is the simile. A simile is the comparison of one thing to another, often involving the words “like” or “as.” The following bad similes are attributed to several sources. I am using the Washington Post as a reference for many of them:

· From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and "Jeopardy!" comes on at 7 p.m. instead of 7:30. (Roy Ashley, Washington)

· Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever. (Jennifer Hart, Arlington)

· John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met. (Russell Beland, Springfield)

These are also of questionable heritage, but they made me laugh:

· Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

· She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

· She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

· He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

· The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Kara Church

Senior Technical Editor

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

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