RE: passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs

Subject: RE: passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs
From: "Robart, Kay" <Kay -dot- Robart -at- tea -dot- state -dot- tx -dot- us>
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 09:00:43 -0500

I don't prefer passive voice, in fact I try to avoid it, but the three reasons taught in just about every technical-writing textbook for using passive voice are these:

1. When the actor is unknown "Fire was invented . . . " we donât know who invented it.
2. When the actor is de-emphasized (the action is more important than the actor) "The strike was averted on Friday . . ."
3. When the actor is being concealed

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+kay -dot- robart=tea -dot- state -dot- tx -dot- us -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+kay -dot- robart=tea -dot- state -dot- tx -dot- us -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of McLauchlan, Kevin
Sent: Saturday, October 20, 2012 5:27 PM
To: tech2wr-l
Subject: passive voice (was RE: Numbering paragraphs

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?

It goes toward TW self-respect and not feeling like a total hack
in how you earn your daily bread.

Becca said
...
> I do think that the numbered and indented paragraphs aren't the best
> way to do things... but then, what people are writing and calling
> procedures aren't what I would call a procedure... there's very little
> "do this... do this next step" in them. Most of them are written
> passive voice (and I'm getting a lot of push-back when I try to write
> them in active).
>
> I'm doing the best with what I've been given, but I have very little
> (read,none) influence over the finished projects.
>


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

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