Re: Passive activity, voice-wise

Subject: Re: Passive activity, voice-wise
From: John Gear <catalyst -at- PACIFIER -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 26 Jan 1996 11:04:00 PST

Someone wrote:

> Perhaps the whole concept of passivity ("strength to withstand the
>things I can't change") is underrated. Gandhi defeated the British Empire
>by means of passive resistance, after all!

> (snip)

>Passive voice is one tool in our arsenal. To reject it out of hand is to
>deny us something that can be useful. To overuse it is like the kid who
>gets a hammer and decides everything is a nail. To fail to use it where
>appropriate is just as limiting.

1. Nonviolent resistance is *not* the same as passive resistance, after all!
Gandhi was one leader of a movement that used *nonviolence* to make the
weakened British *realize* that they could not maintain the empire any
longer. If you have a chance to take a workshop on nonviolent protest you
might doing so--you will learn how different nonviolent resistance and
passive resistance are.

And it's telling that you didn't write "Passive resistance was used by
Gandhi to defeat the British Empire, after all!"

2. You imply that there are folks who "reject it [passive voice] out of
hand." This is a straw man. There's much data to suggest the idea that a
good many people reject the *active* voice out of hand.

I have yet to see anyone offer an uncontrived example of something written
in the active voice that would be better phrased in the passive. Try to
find real, published examples of written work that would be improved by use
of the passive voice and share them with us. I am confident that for every
such example (if you find any) there are *hundreds* of counter examples
where the active voice should have been used.

3. The suggestion to use "action-oriented" and "object-oriented" instead of
active and passive voice is a nice example of doublespeak in the making.

The active voice is not "action-oriented" -- it's *actor*-oriented. The
active voice helps the reader/listener know *who* did what. Which is why so
many people *like* the passive voice--it's the language of nonresponsibility.

John Gear (catalyst -at- pacifier -dot- com)

The Bill of Rights -- The ORIGINAL Contract with America
Beware of Imitations. Accept No Substitutes. Insist on the Genuine Articles.


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