Re. Passively held meetings

Subject: Re. Passively held meetings
From: geoff-h -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA
Date: Wed, 24 Jan 1996 21:12:34 -0600

Janet Valade noted that "a meeting is held every Wednesday"
is perfectly valid and defensible, which is true enough...
as far as it goes. The problem is that it's unnecessarily
vague, which is the real problem with passive voice.

Presumably the meeting isn't held spontaneously and for no
discernable purpose (though I've attended some meetings
that had that feel). In this case, a little precision can't
possibly hurt:
Management holds staff meetings every Wednesday.
The QA department holds... etc.
If you must use passive, at least be passively specific:
Emergency Committee meetings are held...
Meetings of the Emergency Committee are held...

The best use of the passive voice is when the agency/actor
etc. is truly unknown, but even then you can usually
rewrite the sentence actively:
A fire was started [by someone unknown]...
versus:
An unknown arsonist started a fire...
A fire started... [past tense, not passive]

--Geoff Hart @8^{)}
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Disclaimer: If I didn't commit it in print in one of our
reports, it don't represent FERIC's opinion.


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