RE: active vs. passive

Subject: RE: active vs. passive
From: Slager Timothy J <Timothy -dot- Slager -at- dematic -dot- com>
To: Karin Matchett <wordcraft -at- karinmatchett -dot- com>, "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 8 Aug 2017 13:15:17 +0000

Don't use passive voice is a good rule, but when using it makes the sentence more succinct without sacrificing clarity, use it.

I wouldn't write "the directory will be created." But even worse is "the system will create the directory." "System" as subject adds no meaning. If I'm not mistaken the original was trying not to use future tense, another rule of thumb. In this case, it's one I would follow: "If the specified output directory does not exist, it is created automatically."

I'm not sure why, but in software documentation, this sort of future tense is everywhere, and it can be confusing. "Will be" when? "Is" = immediately. Maybe "is" has more smack than "will be" too; I don't know. But here it adds clarity.

tims

-----Original Message-----
From: techwr-l-bounces+timothy -dot- slager=dematic -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+timothy -dot- slager=dematic -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On Behalf Of Karin Matchett
Sent: Tuesday, August 08, 2017 1:37 PM
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Subject: Re: active vs. passive

Lauren, I completely agree with the distinctions you're drawing between
passive voice and other passive attributes, and it's helpful to get the
terminology straight. In this case, what if the identity of the thing
creating the directory isn't relevant to the reader? It seems to me
that this way of using "to be" has the benefit of limiting the moving
parts discussed to those the reader needs to know about, thus
decluttering the sentence.
Karin

On 8/8/2017 12:32 AM, Lauren wrote:

I was taught in a technical writing course many years ago to avoid
"to be" in technical writing. Now that I avoid it, I cringe when I
see it. "To be" is promissory, predictive, and passive. It is not
"passive voice" it passive or a passive sense, like timid. "To be"
is not in the moment and it asks the reader to wait for some future
event or to reflect on some other option. Technical writing should
address the matter at hand, so for that, "to be" should be avoided.
Proposal writing should be assertive and "to be" is timid.
For the example here, "the directory will be created," I would say
the "the system will create the directory," to avoid a passive sense
that is not necessarily a passive voice.
On 8/7/2017 3:11 PM, Robert Lauriston wrote:

Future tense is sometimes appropriate. "If the specified output
directory does not exist, it will be created automatically."
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Follow-Ups:

References:
Re: active vs. passive: From: Bernd Hutschenreuther
Re: active vs. passive: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: active vs. passive: From: Peter Neilson
Re: active vs. passive: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: active vs. passive: From: Lauren
Re: active vs. passive: From: Karin Matchett

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