Re: passive voice

Subject: Re: passive voice
From: Janet Valade <jvalade -at- IX -dot- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Jan 1996 16:13:12 -0800

It seems to me that many people treat words written in the passive
voice as if they were leprosy germs. The passive voice is "real"
English which has perfectly legitimate uses.

A meeting is held every Wednesday. This is a perfectly legitimate
sentence which says exactly what I want to say. In order to make the
sentence active, I would have to research who originally decided to
hold the meetings so I could say: Tom holds a meeting every Wednesday.
However, the point of the sentence is not Tom; it is meeting and
Wednesday. Who decided that the meetings would be held on Wednesday is
not important to the communication. What if Tom has been fired? Then
I would have to say:

Tom used to hold a meeting every Wednesday, but Tom was fired.
Now, nobody holds a meeting every Wednesday. Everyone just comes
to a meeting on Wednesday out of habit.

It's very important not to use passive voice when active would be
better. But it is also important to recognize those occasions when the
passive voice is the better choice.

Janet Valade
jvalade -at- ix -dot- netcom -dot- com


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