Re: Challenge to active-verb advocates

Subject: Re: Challenge to active-verb advocates
From: "Matthew B. Hicks" <matt -at- UNIDATA -dot- UCAR -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 16:58:49 -0700

On Thu, 25 Jan 1996 DLE -at- alpha -dot- sunquest -dot- com wrote:

> Enough of the easy rewrites. Can you recast the following sentence in
> active voice and improve it?

> "The leaves on the sidewalk were kicked and scattered by passing
> feet."

> This sentence constitutes the sole member of my "Passive Verb Defense
> Arsenal." Can you suggest any other candidates?

The suggestion seems to be that this sentence is worthy of life as it exists.
I'm not convinced that either the idea or the image is good enough to hold
onto, but I think that it would be improved simply by turning it around:
"Passing feet kicked and scattered the leaves [that tiled the sidewalk]."
(And, hey, now both the feet and the leaves are actors.) The original
sentence focuses on the leaves. Why? Is this a story about leaves? If this
is just meant to be an image providing atmosphere or setting, then placing
the focus on the feet is just as appropriate.

If your going to focus on the leaves, why not something like this:
"Kicked and scattered by passing feet, the leaves on the sidewalk
turned to confetti -- the only evidence of Nature's end-of-summer bash."

I'm just playing devil's advocate though; I worry more about hyphens than
I do about an occasional passive sentence. And there's nothing inherently
wrong with the original sentence, but it's not like you're going to win
the Pulitzer on the basis of that sentence alone.

-Matt Hicks
matt -at- unidata -dot- ucar -dot- edu
Owner of the Dal-l Web pages:

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