Re: active voice v. passive voice

Subject: Re: active voice v. passive voice
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2001 09:41:01 -0800

"Carnall, Jane" wrote:

> A co-worker has gone through a manual and, among other things, carefully
> changed active voice to passive voice.
> He said "Personal preference: I just don't think that saying 'You can'
> sounds good."

I think you'd be wasting your time collecting support for the active
versus the passive. The fact that your co-worker citing personal
preference shows that the issue probably isn't really about
effective writing at all.

What the issue is really about is harder to define. When someone
becomes punctilious over grammar, they're often engaging in an ad
hominem attack, asserting their superiority over the writer by

At other times, they're simply desperate to prove their competence.
This motive is especially common among new or junior people. In one
case, I know of a junior editor who basically rewrote a novel; the
writer responded by re-submitting the original disk (which was
accepted without question).

Whatever your co-worker's motive, I suggest that you question why he
is spending so much time doing something for no better reason than
"personal preference." The point of editing is to improve the
manuscript. If he's not doing that, then he's not making good use of
his time, and the company has a right to call him on it.

Bruce Byfield 317.833.0313 bbyfield -at- progeny -dot- com
Director of Marketing and Communications,
Progeny Linux Systems

"In no longer pretty cities, there are fingers in the kitties,
There are warrant forms and chitties and a jackboot on the stair,
There's sex and greed and human grime in monochrome for one thin
And at least the trains all run on time - but they don't go
- Allan Moore, "V for Vendetta"

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