passives, etc.

Subject: passives, etc.
From: Michael Spooner <MSPOONER -at- CC -dot- USU -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 1994 09:04:03 -0600

Interesting that this active/passive controversy should come up
this week; my tech editing class touched on it Wednesday. So you've
just made education relevant to real life for 20-some lurking students
(they'd better be lurking). Thanks.

Personally, I'd be loathe to lose the passive--or any other linguistic
nuance--for fear I might need it later, maybe to cover my tracks. Therefore,
I'm wary of the knee-jerk reaction against it that Shannon Ford mentions.
I like Bonni Graham's instinct about the relative functions of active and
passive. If you really want "authoritative" backing, Bonni, you could cite
Eisenberg. She says essentially the same thing you do: active highlights the
subject (of the action, that is), and passive highlights the object. So it
should be a functional choice, not an aesthetic one.

On another thread (I get the digest, so please forgive all this in one), I have
to say I am bored to tears with the Conan-the-Grammarian approach to language
variation and usage. It is simply dumb, I think, to go to the wall "defending"
the language against variations like "impact" or "interface" used as verbs,
neologisms like "prioritize," and so forth. This stuff happens because people
are creative; maybe language itself is creative. Don't fight it. To quote
Calvin, "verbing weirds language," and it's a helluva a lot of fun.

Finally, while I'm out on this limb, whoever said that tech writing is the
primary source of information in this age ought to have the contents of their
head impounded and examined. For such a thing to be true would require a
truly impoverished concept of information or a supremely expansive view of tech
writing. Either of which is plain out-of-touch.

Interface wit' ya later,
Michael Spooner

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