Posted by: episystechpubs | September 5, 2014

Nifty Nuggets: Anthropomorphism

Anthropomorphism is attributing human characteristics or behavior to an inanimate object (things that are not human). Anthropomorphism is a form of a metaphor and can make your writing unclear and incorrect. We see anthropomorphism in documentation because a writer is trying to make complex information easier for the reader to understand. Instead of using anthropomorphism, work toward a clearer understanding of the content and another way to express it.

Here are some examples:

  • Incorrect: This enhancement ensures compliance with Regulation Z.
  • Correct: In this enhancement, Symitar modified the Episys database to remain compliant with Regulation Z.

An enhancement is incapable of ensuring anything because the term enhancement is the act of enhancing or state of being enhanced. The programming changes Symitar made are what ensure compliance.

  • Incorrect: This field specifies how Episys advances the due date when a payment is made to a loan.
  • Correct: Use this field to specify how Episys advances the loan due date when a member makes a payment.

The user’s input or the section in the field determines how Episys advances the due date.

  • Incorrect: The system thinks you are inactive after 5 minutes and ends your session.
  • Correct: If you are inactive for more than 5 minutes, the system ends your session.

The system can’t think. The user’s inactivity ends the session.

Sometimes it is acceptable to use anthropomorphism, as in the following examples (always use discretion):

  • You end up with an awkward sentence trying to avoid using anthropomorphism
  • You are writing about a hierarchical relationship, “a child object is said to inherit attributes from its parent or ancestors” (Microsoft Manual of Style)

Thank you,

Jackie Solano

Technical Writer, Episys Technical Publications

Symitar®

8985 Balboa Avenue

San Diego, California 92123

Direct Line: 619-542-6711

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