passive voice is discussed actively

Subject: passive voice is discussed actively
From: "Thomas F. Remington" <remingtf -at- DSSRV01 -dot- DS -dot- DUPONT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 1996 11:30:20 -0500

Yes, I like to write in an economical style. Yes, I *detest* passive voice.
Use of passive voice should be avoided.

However....

I work a lot with Standards. Most of them deal with engineering, and a lot
of them deal with issues where folks can get hurt or killed, or where
accidents could cause environmental problems. My preference is to write in
active voice, as in "Install pumps so that....."

However.....

In the world of Standards, we follow standards (metastandards?) set by folks
like ISO. We have key words. The words "must," "shall," and "will" denote things
that are mandatory. The words "should" and "may" denote things that are
optional. "Install pumps so that...." becomes "Pumps shall be installed so
that...." Do I like it? No. Do I want to keep my job? Yes. Therefore,
passive voice is used by me in many of the documents that are written by me.

When you get down to it, this stuff is what our audience is used to,
and they don't have any trouble understanding it. It may offend my
sensibilites as a writer, but it gets the job done. I can still add a lot of
clarity, even when I'm forced to use passive voice. (Of course, if you run
Word's grammar checker, it tells you over and over and over again that a
verb _may_ be in passive voice....)

...caught in the act of actively writing in passive voice,

Thom Remington
DuPont External Affairs Technical Publications
Wilmington, DE

Opinions expressed are mine; they have nothing whatever to do with what my
employer does or doesn't think.


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