Passive voice -- a story

Subject: Passive voice -- a story
From: Emily Skarzenski <eskarzenski -at- DTTUS -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 10:37:47 CST

I once wrote an entire manual in passive voice. (gasp!)

We called it "programmer documentation." Essentially, the manual was a
running narrative of thousands of lines of code -- what the code was
doing as it was doing it.

I began writing in passive voice, but found every sentence included
"the system" or "the program." [The system validates checks the input
number. If the number is not valid, the system displays an error
message. If the number is valid, the system retrieves the next unused
index number and assigns it to the record. Next, the system copies the
record to the XXX database... etc., etc.]

After reviewing the first two chapters, my boss (an excellent tech
writer) and I agreed that anyone would go batty trying to read the
thing -- even a couple of paragraphs of it -- with this repeated
element. Therefore, we decided after much thought to rewrite in
passive voice. [The input number is validated. If the number is not
valid, an error message appears. If the number is valid, the next
unused index number is retrieved and assigned to the record...]

In the end, we felt comfortable that we had made the best choice.
Anyone else ever done this? Or chosen another route for the same type
of task?

Emily Skarzenski
Deloitte & Touche/ICS - Chadds Ford, PA
eskarzenski -at- dttus -dot- com
71220 -dot- 341 -at- compuserve -dot- com

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