Re: passive vs. active...usage...

Subject: Re: passive vs. active...usage...
From: "Sharon Burton-Hardin" <sharonburton -at- earthlink -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 09:51:34 -0800

When I am teaching, I tell my students that passive voice has a place. It
can be restful after a series of active sentences to just allow the reader
to relax some. A quiet moment, if you will.

But the most useful place is where you might blame the user - for example,
in explaining error messages. Written in active voice, you almost have to
say "You are an idiot because you clicked the wrong thing." Not a good
thing to tell the user. Passive voice lets you shift that to the system has
done something without blaming the user for the behavior. Since usability
tests show that most users think they are stupid and to blame to start with,
why reinforce that? (See Karen Shriver's excellent book Dynamics in Doc
Design for more about these usability tests).


Sharon Burton-Hardin
Anthrobytes Consulting
Vice-president, Programs of the Inland Empire chapter of the STC

----- Original Message -----
From: "Tom Murrell" <trmurrell -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Sent: Tuesday, 31 October, 2000 9:21 AM
Subject: Re: passive vs. active...usage...

| Mike W wants to know when it is appropriate to use passive voice,
| especially mixing passive with active voice in his writing.
| I'm not sure I know how you're mixing your voices. I would tend not to
| do that, and I would tend not to recommend it to others.
| However, the overall rule that I use--and you're welcome to it if you
| want--is that I use passive voice when it is meaningless to assign
| agency to an action.

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