Beware the Anthropomorphic Dragon. ( A Not so Serious Look at a Serious Problem in Writing)

I have to confess, I am not a prolific writer. During the process of writing my dissertation, I found myself staring at a blank screen trying to put my thoughts into words that made sense. At other times, the words would flow onto the screen and I would amaze myself when I would reread what I had just typed. When I finally finished the first 3 chapters of my dissertation I was so proud. My proposal was completed…I did it!

Excite to send my work off to my committee. Fist, I saved it then resaved it on jump drive, computer, and external hard drive. I was not about to lose my work due to some system failure or glitch in my computer. Off it went to my Chair, Methodologist, and Content Expert via the LDP. Then there was the waiting, waiting, and more waiting…funny how 10 days seems like an eternity when you are anxious for something. During the waiting, I would continue to read a little, write a little.  Daily I would return to my dashboard, open my spaces to see if I had anything from the committee.

Finally, my work was returned, like a child who left for a whirlwind excursion, finally home from the committee cycle. My anxiousness intensified, my heart began racing, as I opened the file. WHAT! Comments! And, not just a few comments; 360 total comments! I was overwhelmed, “this is not possible, my work, my thoughts, my baby was being questioned.” I scrolled down, add this, change that, what do you mean by this? All the comments became overwhelming. Then I saw it. Like the monster in the closet that jumped out just as the lights went out. THE ANTHROPOMORPHISM DRAGON!

Page after page, my content expert comment: Avoid anthropomorphisms (applying human actions or characteristics to non-humans).  For example – The article stated, the research showed, the paper identified, or other such phrases. I had not encountered this before. All through my undergrad, and into grad school, no one warned me that this monster lurked in the shadows. My feelings of anxiety turned to determination. I was not about to let this beast ruin my work.Picture1

I started researching this beast for a time. I became acquainted with the definition: Anthropomorphism is a literary device that can be defined as a technique in which a writer ascribes human traits, ambitions, emotions or entire behavior to animals, non-human beings, natural phenomena or objects (DiSalvo, & Gemperle, 2003). To be proficient, I had to locate the dragon lair. Once I became proficient at wielding the sword, I made it my goal to search for, extinguish, and banish the anthropomorphic dragon once and for all from my dissertation world. What I discovered amazed me. I found many writers gave into this monster. While there were writers who tamed this beast and effectively employed its services, it remained clear that the dragon was not welcomed in the world of research writing. Sadly, there were some who fearfully gave way to the dragon, and were hypnotically desensitized to its presence.

Thus, my quest continued. Now knowing what to look for, I read each sentence. Seeking to rid my dissertation kingdom of this evil once and for all, it was no small feat. But alas, with the striking blow, the dragon began to fall. No more “The research showed, the paper identifies, the data collected will provide, this case study will explore.”  Instead, I wielded my sword and wrote, “Researchers showed, researchers agree, the data collection included, the sources of evidence collected.” Thanks to my content expert, the “Merlin” of my dissertation kingdom, I, the apprentice writer, became the knight that rid my dissertation kingdom of the ANTHROPOMORPHIC DRAGON!

My warning to each learner out there, BEWARE the ANTHROPOMORPHIC DRAGON! Take the time to read and reread your work. See if this beast lurks around your dissertation kingdom. If so, you will need to remove them. Trust me, It can save you hours of rewriting.


DiSalvo, C., & Gemperle, F. (2003). From seduction to fulfillment: The use of anthropomorphic form in design. In Proceedings of the 2003 international conference on designing pleasurable products and interfaces (pp. 67-72). ACM. Retrieved from


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