RE: active voice v. passive voice

Subject: RE: active voice v. passive voice
From: "Sella Rush" <sellar -at- apptechsys -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2001 14:06:46 -0800

There's a difference between using passive phrases and creating a
construction that obscures the action.
> New: Two topologies are available in defining Cats: pedigree or moggy.

The sentence above removes the emphasis on the action, which is perfectly
valid if the focus of what you're writing is on the nature of the data
itself rather than on the task of entering or viewing data.

If, however, you're writing tasked-based instructions or otherwise informing
users on what they need to do, you need to emphasize the action. You can do
this using either passive or active:

Passive: Cats can be defined as belonging to one of two types: pedigree or
Active: > Old: You can define two types of Cats: pedigree or moggy.

(Actually, I would probably say: Cats can be defined as either "pedigree"
or "moggy". Assuming I've correctly interpreted meaning.)

But--I also think the use of the word "topologies" gives you a clue as to
the mindset and personal style of your co-worker. Assuming that the word
really should be "typologies", this is merely a high-falutin' way of saying
"types". There's really no reason for it. But we all know writers who
prefer the long and obscure over the short and obvious. It's tough to
change their minds. Maybe the best you can do is emphasize that different
styles of writing are appropriate for different situations, and pull out a
stack of user guides. Be sure to acknowledge that his/her style is
acceptable in the right circumstances (even if you don't believe it).

(Note: did this person actually make any improvements in the manual? Add

new info, fix incorrect info, clear up confusing passages? Or did this
person not have a clue about what to do, and fixate on something they could
keep busy on? If so, you've got bigger problems.

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