Re: Help! passive/active (long)

Subject: Re: Help! passive/active (long)
From: SANDRA CHARKER <scharker -at- OZEMAIL -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 07:22:25 +1000

Kirstin Mercer wrote:

<...SNIP
> DETAILS:
> We have received several comments from different judges in the
> local STC pubs competition criticizing our use of the passive voice
> in one specific usage in our manuals.

...SNIP

> there
> is a step and then a result below it telling the reader what to
> expect):
> 1. Click Options.
> o The Options dialog is displayed.

> The issue is with the phrase "is displayed." Here are the options we've
> thought of:
> The Options dialog displays. (displays what?)
> The Options dialog opens. (opens what?)
> The Options dialog appears. (appears out of thin air?)
> <Product Name> displays/opens the Options dialog. (wordy!)

END SNIP.../>


My personal preference for a result statement like this is to use opens ("The
Options dialog opens").

BUT...

There is no reason except personal taste or company style to prefer any of
these sentences over any other, or over the one you use.

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with using "is displayed" in statements like
this. The sentence is clear, succinct, and unambiguous, and it puts the focus
where it belongs.. on the Options dialog.

This use of the passive voice does not, will not, and cannot impede real users
from understanding what the software does.

There is no reason except personal taste or company style to prefer any of the
sentences you listed over any other, or over the one you use.

Are any of the STC judges who criticized this usage on the list? Did you
downgrade Kirstin's manuals for "is displayed", or were you giving a helpful
warning along the lines of, "Some ignorant but pedantic readers who don't want
to use the software might pick on this sentence as an excuse for going to
lunch?"



Sandra Charker

scharker -at- ozemail -dot- com -dot- au ** Never express yourself more
** clearly than you can think
** ... Nils Bohr


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