Re: Challenge to active-verb advocates

Subject: Re: Challenge to active-verb advocates
From: loryn <loryn -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 11:10:47 1000

Ah Donna,

But you didn't tell us of the thematic context when you first posted. Had you have done so, we could've responded adequately. Of course, all of us actor-oriented writers, we have to bear in mind that the greatest argument for occasionally using passively sentences is the thematic progress of our text.

The theme of this sample sentence is "The leaves". Rephrasing it actively with "The people" may alter the thematic progression of a text with surrounding sentences having themes such as:

"The ground sweated vaporous mist from. The leaves, kicked and scattered by passing people, swirled upwards and fell. The tree trunk was marked by rivulets of sap, as if to sap its lifeblood. The branches ..."

In this sample, making a person the theme would be quite inappropriate. We must ensure that our entire textual patterning is appropriate for our message. So I feel we should take a broader view of what is acceptable and unacceptable in technical writing. We shouldn't blindly or arbitrarily apply set grammatical diktats to our editing, but view the text in context.

Loryn Jenkins

From: DLE -at- alpha -dot- sunquest -dot- com
Sent: Friday, January 26, 1996 9:11
To: Multiple recipients of list TECHWR-L <TECHWR-L -at- listserv -dot- okstate -dot- edu>
Subject: Re: Challenge to active-verb advocates

The original sentence:

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

A number of people have recast the sentence with an active verb, i.e.:
The people walking by kicked the leaves on the sidewalk, scattering them tp
the four winds.

What if "leaves" constitute the focus of the sentence? In other words, what
if we wish to describe leaves? What if leaves cannot take any action on
their own? Suppose that we want to point out the passive nature of leaves?
Oh, yeah--forgot to append my name on original posting:
Donna Ellis
dle -at- alpha -dot- sunquest -dot- com

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