Challenge to active-verb advocates (and Passive Voice) -My

Subject: Challenge to active-verb advocates (and Passive Voice) -My
From: Bill Sullivan <bsullivan -at- SMTPLINK -dot- DELTECPOWER -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 25 Jan 1996 16:23:37 -0800

Thoughts

To all: For the past several days I have watched this Passive Voice
thread wind through my TECHWR-L inbox. I have deleted entries after
glancing through them, immediately after opening them, and before
opening them. This subject, were it not so boring and senseless, is
almost enough to inspire me to attempt to write a DAO (delete after
opening) macro or perhaps even a DBO (delete before opening) macro,
and I assure you I am not a macro writer.

But I think techwrler DLE of alpha.sunquest.com (who obviously hasn't
got the nerve to sign his or her name to this nonsense) goes too far.
To begin with, the sentence this person asks us to comment on ("The
leaves on the sidewalk were kicked and scattered by passing feet.")
seems hardly to be a sentence from technical writing, and this is a
technical writing discussion group. At least that is why I labor
through it each day.

According to the Gospel of Eric J. Ray, "If it doesn't relate to
technical communication, don't post it." Granted, whether or not to
use passive voice may be worth an occasional grunt or groan or moan
or sigh in a technical discussion group, but please, we are all
adults here, are we not? Can we not have the discipline to not bring
poetry, fiction, and other non-technical forms into our discussions of
examples? Who among us, in his or her working day, has the time to
dally with dumbness?

OK. Having said that, I will ring in on the side of those who
believe there is a place for passive voice in technical
communication, particularly when the subject of the sentence is
either not known, or a secret, or something you or your management
would rather not mention such as the system. On the other hand, I
have edited the work of engineers and others who weakened their
writing and thus their case with passive voice. I am sorry I don't
have examples. If I felt I could strengthen the writing with active
voice, I would argue my case.

Bottom line (the Golden Rule, if you will) for writers and editors
should be to produce the strongest writing they can. It isn't a
question of whether passive voice is defendable or legal or anything
else. It's what best gets the thought across to the reader. That's
what we're doing here, baby!

Thanks for listening to me.

Bill Sullivan
bsullivan -at- deltecpower -dot- com
San Diego, California

>>> <DLE -at- alpha -dot- sunquest -dot- com> - 1/25/96 8:32 AM >>>
Enough of the easy rewrites. Can you recast the following sentence in
active voice and improve it?

(clock starts ticking)

"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?


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