Active vs. Passive

Subject: Active vs. Passive
From: Chad Kaiwi Southern <csouther -at- TUBA -dot- AIX -dot- CALPOLY -dot- EDU>
Date: Fri, 4 Feb 1994 11:21:43 -0800

Before I get the world or at least ASAE, which does stand for Amer Soc of
Ag Engrs, sending me all kinds of messages about how passive voice
belongs in the toilet with technical writing, allow me to clarify what
the booklet reads. The booklet states, "All text must be written in
third person." I read a message asking the question whether it was
better to be formal or understood. I believe it is better to be formal AND
understood. In class, my understanding of passive sentence structure is
the object (kickee) cannot do the action described in the sentence.
ex. "The legs were attatched to the table using screws."
The legs (kickee) cannot attach themselves. Active structure has the
"kicker" doing the action to the "kickee".
ex. "The carpenter attacthed the legs to the table with screws."
Clearly the active sentence is not in third person. The sentence is
understood and formal.

I have not as much experience or intelligence with writing as
professional tech writers; that is obvious from the quality of the
messages I read. Therefore my premises may not be applicable or make any
sense. However, it seems to me that there exists a path that combines
active and third person with passive and first person structures. Write
what you mean, and make sure the audience understands.

Since I read messages agreeing to passive voice being used in some areas
for emphasis or continuity, then this path of writing can't be too far off.
Nevermind about passive and active; move to clear and formal.

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