Re: What to say to people who LIKE the passive voice (fwd)

Subject: Re: What to say to people who LIKE the passive voice (fwd)
From: M DeMeritt <mdemerit -at- CYMBAL -dot- AIX -dot- CALPOLY -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 2 Feb 1994 17:16:20 -0800


I've been reading and using this list for the last year or so...
What I use it for is as a teaching supplement for the Technical Writing
classes I teach at the University.

Recently, I forwarded to the class an argument one of you wrote concerning
what we can say to people who LIKE the passive voice. I received the
following rebut from a student. I believe he is simply trying to see
which authority to accept.

Would any of you like to contribute to our education here at Cal Poly?
Which do you prefer: active or passive voice.....Why?


From: Chad Kaiwi Southern <csouther -at- oboe -dot- aix -dot- calpoly -dot- edu>
To: M DeMeritt <mdemerit -at- oboe -dot- aix -dot- calpoly -dot- edu>
Subject: Re: What to say to people who LIKE the passive voice

My instructor handed out a booklet on proper ASAE technical report
format. In this booklet it states that writing shall be done in third
person. The justification this writer uses for this is that the report
seems rather informal when written like a conversation. Also, instead of
the author speaking for and about the author's work, writing in third
person lets the work speak for itself.

What follows is the Forwarded message from the List.

> I deal often with people who think that the passive voice is used
> properly in scientific writing. ("They" just might not have as clear a grasp
> on when they can use it properly.)

> Some of the reasons I've heard are

> 1. The "I can be objective about my work" philosophy.
> The author creates distance between him/herself and the material. Distance
> implies an objective viewpoint, not the "I" subjection viewpoint. Usually I
> try to get them to think that "I" is interpretive (just giving subjection a
> twist).

> 2. The deified/scared of God syndrome: "Because that's the way my advisor
> writes."

> 3. The journal approach: "Because that's the way other papers in the journal
> are written."

> 4. The "that's the way I learned it in college" course.

> Hmm, I guess we do learn a lot through example.

> Curiously enough, the most active paper I feel I've ever edited came from a
> spanish-speaking individual. He said he didn't feel confident in writing in
> English so he just used the old subject-verb-d.o. approach; the paper was

> Happy Editing!

> Laura Praderio
> Woods Hole
> lpraderio -at- whoi -dot- edu

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