Subscribe to The Chicago Manual of Style Online
Usage and Grammar
Q. As an editor of regulatory documents, I routinely come across sentences in which the subject is an inanimate object but the verb denotes something only a person can do. Examples are “this document analyzes the hazards” and “the analysis considers the environmental impacts.” Does this type of thing have a name? Inappropriate anthropomorphism or personification? Is there a rule I can cite when explaining to the author why I have suggested rewording the sentence?
A. Why reword it? Documents do analyze and present and consider. They discuss and bemoan and mangle and make mockeries of things. There’s no rule that restricts writers to using the literal meanings of words. If it gets to the point where the documents are ordering in pizza, consider rewording.