RE: Wrong? Poor style? OK?

Subject: RE: Wrong? Poor style? OK?
From: David Hailey <david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu>
To: techwr-l mailinglist <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 24 Mar 2009 14:12:23 -0600

Hi all,



Passive voice is not necessarily a problem. It depends on what you want to emphasize. If the subject is unimportant, insisting on emphasizing it can lead to difficult reading and ambiguity.



Two options control how you save the test results: (1) a C drive or (2) a networked, file-management system

is an ugly, wordy, and awkward sentence, and "you" is irrelevant.



Two options control how the test results are saved: (1) a C drive or (2) a networked, file-management system

is a little less wordy, but still clumsy.



You should save the test results on a C drive or a networked, file-management system

is better.



Save the test results on a C drive or the networked, file-management system

is even better (if appropriate for the purpose and situation).



BUT suppose you have a situation where you want to emphasize the DO.



Only the test results may be saved on the C drive.



(1) You may save the test results on the C drive only (2) You may only save the test results on the C drive (3) You may save only the test results on the C drive

buries the point of the sentence and creates ambiguity in every case. Does it mean I must save the test results on the C drive and do nothing else? Does it mean I must save only the test results on the C drive and everything else wherever I wish? I can see no way of fixing the sentence without doubling its length to explain the correct process. Also, "you" might be inappropriate. The sentence might about the subject and not to the subject.



The IT professional may only save the test results on the C drive is really ugly and just as ambiguous.



Clearly, passive is the better option, or should I say "Clearly, the IT professional's only option is the use of the passive voice." ;^]



Hoping to help . . .



David E. Hailey, Jr., Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Professional and Technical Communication

Utah State University



david -dot- hailey -at- usu -dot- edu

1 435 797 2741
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: Nancy Allison
RE: Wrong? Poor style? OK?: From: Combs, Richard

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