I'm looking for a word or a phase that describes attributing something not to a person or group, but to an inanimate object like a rule.


A best practice is to run cross browser tests in all modern browsers.

instead of

We test our sites in all modern browsers.

In the first sentence the action of testing is attributed to a rule, not a person. Was curious if there is a term for when you use passive voice and attribute a recommendation to a rule, best practice, etc. to make it sound more authoritative

  • 1
    What's wrong with best practice? What is the context you want to use this in? Are you looking for a noun, a verb, an adjective, an idiom, a proverb? Please do give us something to work with.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 18, 2013 at 21:59
  • Edited the question for clarity. Best practice works well, what I'm trying to find a word or phrase for the act of attributing something to an inanimate object. Maybe "inanimate object" is what I'm looking for?
    – jsuissa
    Aug 18, 2013 at 22:08
  • 1
    Major thematic relations ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thematic_relation ): Agent: deliberately performs the action (e.g., Bill ate his soup quietly.). ... Force or Natural Cause: mindlessly performs the action (e.g., An avalanche destroyed the ancient temple.). However, this does not really seem the same as link-verb linked equivalence elements. Aug 18, 2013 at 22:31
  • 1
    Do you mean writing the sentence in the passive form instead of in the active form?
    – TrevorD
    Aug 18, 2013 at 22:57
  • 1
    Perhaps 'impersonal, professional-sounding' (which of course does sound more authoritative)? It's one of the well-documented reasons for choosing the passive: monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/grammar/engineering/passive/1.1.xml (reason 4). Aug 19, 2013 at 9:02

1 Answer 1


This is an appeal to authority, used fallaciously as no authority is identified. It's an unsubstantiated claim. It's weasel wording. As such it might well be an outright lie. Fact: a best practice is not to write like that.

There is no passive voice anywhere to be seen in either sentence.

  • Thank you and I appreciate the blunt reply. If I added a citation, then it would be an "appeal to authority", correct? As an aside, this is a specific case where the "best practices" described are generally accepted and true. So assuming that what would you suggest when it comes to articulating this as a practical matter?
    – jsuissa
    Aug 20, 2013 at 19:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.