Re: Active voice / passive voice studies

Subject: Re: Active voice / passive voice studies
From: "Janice Gelb" <janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 25 Jul 2003 17:25:05 -0600

Nancy Riccio <ptcs -at- plateautechcomm -dot- com> wrote:

> OK, we all know that it's better to use active voice whenever possible.

Actually, that's not entirely true. *Most* of the time,
especially when providing instructions, active voice is
better than passive voice. However, passive voice is fine
in situations where the actor is unknown ("The file was
corrupted") or if the actor would be redundant or is obvious
("the system displays the result," "the system lists the
files," and so on)

> I'm interested in finding studies that support this claim -- specifically,
> studies that address differences in the way readers comprehend active- and
> passive-voice sentences. I vaguely remember one of my professors saying
> that readers encode sentences in active voice regardless of how they're
> written. However, I also recall her saying that the "jury was still out"
> on whether passive voice actually hinders the reading process.

You might try searching Google for scientific research.
Something like "psycholinguistic research English language
comprehension" or similar fields and see what you get.

-- Janice


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