Subject: Passive
From: K Watkins <KWATKINS -at- QUICKPEN -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 08:32:00 -0300

In response to Kirstin Mercer-

>The Options dialog opens. (opens what?)

"Open" can be a transitive or intransitive verb:
The door opens inward.
The customer opens the door.

>The Options dialog appears. (appears out of thin air?)

You could also ask: "Is displayed"? Poof? Out of nowhere?

I generally use "appears", and no one has said anything about magic yet.
(The audience is primarily office and construction personnel.) In some
cases, I do make the program the actor, as when a confirmation dialog

[ProductName] asks you to confirm your decision
before it deletes the file.

Again, no one has yet accused me of over-humanizing the software.

In further response to Karen Gwynn, I am reluctant to leave it unclear
whether or not the user is supposed to take action, and that is just what
the passive voice frequently does. If I can't make a room assignment
myself, but rather have to wait for the residence life office to do it
before I can progress, shouldn't the docs tell me so?

Before you fire up your flame throwers, I do agree that the passive voice
has a legitimate place. I'm just not sure this is one of them.

K Watkins
kwatkins -at- quickpen -dot- com
speaking for myself, not my employers

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