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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:Susan_Gallagher_at_Enfin-SD -at- PROTEON -dot- COM Date:Thu, 3 Feb 1994 10:22:00 EST
Reply-To: Melody DeMeritt, who writes:
>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?
We (English speakers) inherited passive voice from a past
that was much more formal and in which there was far less
information and much more time. The familiarity of the late
twentieth century and the schedules that constrain us were
unheard of in the not too distant past. The formality and
unhurried approach of passive voice served this time-gone-by
The "information age" has given us a far different life
style and far different priorities. We are now responsible
for learning more in our lifetimes than was available to
learn in the past. It is no wonder that we cannot preserve
the formality of the past and still have the time to
accomplish our goals.
Passive voice is a useful construct for times when it is
unnecessary or inadvisable to attribute an action to its
source, but it should be used sparingly.
We,as technical writers, are the primary disseminators of
information for our age. We have a responsibility to our
audience, those who must assimilate that information, to
assist them in their task. Active voice is one of the tools
we can use to do this, as information written in active
voice is clearer, less formal, and easier to understand.
By its nature, active voice uses fewer words than passive
voice, and using fewer words is another tool we must employ
if we are to serve our audience to the best of our ability.
By using our talents to present information as briefly and
succinctly as possible, we assist our audience in their task
of assimilating information. Isn't that why we're here?