RE: passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs

Subject: RE: passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs
From: Slager Timothy J <Timothy -dot- Slager -at- dematic -dot- com>
To: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>, tech2wr-l <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 22 Oct 2012 12:10:27 +0000

MSTP has a fairly succinct list of rules for when to use passive voice:

"It is all right to use passive voice in the following situations:
-To avoid wordy or awkward construction
-When the subject is unknown or the emphasis is on the receiver of the action
-If casting the user as the subject might sound blaming or condescending, especially in error messages and troubleshooting content"

I remember using passive voice a couple of times in the past week or so; as I recall, it was for the first of these reasons. I remember using it because I try to avoid it.


> Well, we've had the discussion before, but does anybody remember (even confined to some niche) a good reason for using passive voice?

>Unlike some, I don't shriek and begin to wither when I or someone occasionally uses passive voice (sunshine on a vampire...).
Although, I admit, my skin begins to crawl when passive voice is strung together through paragraph after paragraph, page after page.

>So, not counting the minor writerly affectation of applying it sparingly, to inject some variety into one's writing, is there any reason for employing large gobs of passive voice that doesn't come back to avoidance of responsibility?

>As far as I'm concerned, and until I'm... ahem.... actively persuaded otherwise, passive voice was (still is?) beloved of bureau'rats (the "c" is silent) because it is embraced as a cloak of anonymity and a way to deflect and diffuse (also defuse) blame.

>Is there any other (legitimate) reason to prefer passive voice?
(And please don't say "because the customer/your boss wants it that way" - because then I'll say, then what is THEIR reason for wanting it that way. And you'll say "it doesn't matter, they're the ones paying the bills", and I'll say, it matters to me or I wouldn't have asked the question. I want to know if I should automatically harbo[u]r diminished respect for whoever demands passive voice as the default, or could they have a reason other than evasion of blame/responsibility as a defining cultural trait?

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passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs: From: McLauchlan, Kevin

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