Re: E-Primer

Subject: Re: E-Primer
From: "Barbara J. Philbrick" <burkbrick -at- AOL -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 9 May 1994 15:42:09 EDT

>One manager wanted me to try the various style checkers. So I
>bought several and ran our texts through them. They all kept
>saying "Error! Error! Avoid Passive voice!" The manager thought
>that this was indeed an error, and wanted the entire manual only
>in the active voice.

>The damned manual now reads like something by a Hollywood
>personal trainer!

I'm ambivalent on this issue, but some people are fanatic. I met a technical
writer once who poked his head over my cube, said "Do you use passive voice?"
I had no quick, qualified answer, but mumbled something about "Yes, I do." He
immediately said, "Passive voice should be eliminated." How's that for a
first-time greeting?

I've never seen him again, but I want to know: how do you avoid the Hollywood
personal trainer sound? And how do you avoid sounding accusing?

For example, how else could John Sununu (remember him?) have kept from
implicating himself or others other than by saying "Some mistakes were made"?

How do you say "The program manager window is now displayed" without going
into gory detail like "Windows now displays the program manager." This isn't
so bad once, but I'm doing a step-wise manual for a Windows application, and
if every other sentence starts like this, I think it would get tedious to
read. Plus, I think people just don't care what's causing something to

Any suggestions?

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