active voice v. passive voice

Subject: active voice v. passive voice
From: "Carnall, Jane" <Jane -dot- Carnall -at- compaq -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 20 Feb 2001 15:28:46 -0000

Back again...

A co-worker has gone through a manual and, among other things, carefully
changed active voice to passive voice. I asked him about it, pointing to a
specific example:

New: Two topologies are available in defining Cats: pedigree or moggy.
Old: You can define two types of Cats: pedigree or moggy.

He said "Personal preference: I just don't think that saying 'You can'
sounds good." I suggested that, post deadline, we discuss whether active
voice or passive voice was appropriate. My co-worker may be fairly
representative of the audience for this manual in his distaste for active
voice, second person pronouns.

I looked this up in the archives and found a very similiar request last
year, from Meg Halter, who was <writing a user guide for a piece of software
and my boss feels strongly that the active tense and second person
singular is "too personal".> She asked if there was a US government style
guide that positively recommended active voice and second person singular
pronouns as good things - but I couldn't find if anyone responded to her
request.

I don't need a US government style guide, and I've downloaded a number of
good arguments off the archives, but I would like to present my co-worker
with a more rational reason why we should do it my way other than 'Everyone
knows', 'Here are some other people who agree with me', or 'I'm the
technical writer, just do it my way'.

Jane Carnall
Technical Writer, Compaq, UK
Unless stated otherwise, these opinions are mine, and mine alone.







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