Re: active vs. passive voice

Subject: Re: active vs. passive voice
From: Janice Gelb <Janice -dot- Gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 28 Mar 2008 06:39:16 +1100

Michelle Vina-Baltsas wrote:
> I've read many threads on this listserv related to the use of "appears"
> vs. "displays" or "is displayed". During a meeting yesterday, with my
> fellow tech writers, we had a heated discussion about whether we should
> use "is displayed" or "displays" when writing a result

Other people have already dealt with the acceptability
of passive voice when the performer of the action is
not relevant to the instruction. I just wanted to add
that our localization group does not want us to say
"The X dialog box displays" because "display" is used
in other contexts as a noun and therefore its use as
both a noun and a verb could be confusing to the reader.

I also join with others in not encouraging the use of
the construction "Click X to display the Y dialog box"
because the ultimate goal of the user is not to see
the dialog box ("Wow, cool dialog box") but to do
whatever tasks can be accomplished through the dialog
box controls. Pedantic, I know, but that's where we
stand. We use "is displayed" or "appears." (The whole
"magic" aspect has never convinced me. Given that
something is appearing as a result of an action, I
don't think it's misleading or confusing to say that
it appears.)

As for "select" vs "click," we reserve "select" for
choosing something from a list of alternatives. I
think readers are sufficiently used to the verb
"click" to mean causing a button to be selected
that it doesn't really matter what pointing device
is used.

-- Janice

Janice Gelb | The only connection Sun has with
janice -dot- gelb -at- sun -dot- com | this message is the return address

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active vs. passive voice: From: Michelle Vina-Baltsas

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