Passive voice?---THANKS!

Subject: Passive voice?---THANKS!
From: "Elaine R. Firestone" <elaine -at- CALVAL -dot- GSFC -dot- NASA -dot- GOV>
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 1996 10:13:05 -0500

I want to thank _everyone_ who responded to my query. I was deluged with
responses on this issue, partially I think, because a number of people
didn't read the "explanation" post I sent after it became apparent that
people were focusing on the wrong issue and I wasn't clear on what I was
talking about due to caffeine and chocolate dificiencies.

As I wrote to Bonnie Nestor in a private post: "My question (don't know if
you saw my subsequent post that explained my first one <g>), was really how
to make the constant past tense more palatable to readers and make the
prose more readable. Admittedly, the "was noted" example I gave was bad in
that people were focusing on the "noted---who noted? when?" aspect of it
instead of the tense issue. (My fault! Hang head...)"

As a bit of an explanation, I don't write this stuff, just edit it. I have
authors from all over the US and some in the UK, but I'm the only one here
on this project who does this type of work, so complete re-writes to get
things into active voice are completely out of the question. Not only
that, but because of the subject matter (scientific data, instruments,
satellites, band responses, etc.), I don't think I'd even want to. As a
number of you said (paraphrased) "There's nothing wrong with passive voice
as long as it's grammatically correct and it gets the point across as
succinctly as possible." I always try to get rid of the "has beens" and
"have beens" whenever possible, i.e., when I know the author really meant
"was" and "were" but is too entrenched in the other way of writing to be
able to tell the difference and write that way.

Having the authors change their style is not up for consideration (that's
why they hired me, after all <g>). Believe me when I tell you it's a
stretch to have them follow the style guide I've written. Thankfully, my
management is behind me on this issue.

So, I guess I'll go back to my editing out the "has beens" and "have beens"
when possible and getting rid of lengthy, boring strings of prepositional
phrases, rewriting unclear prose, etc.

Thanks again to all who responded. Lot's of great people on these lists!

elaine


Elaine R. Firestone
elaine -at- calval -dot- gsfc -dot- nasa -dot- gov
elaine -at- seawifs -dot- gsfc -dot- nasa -dot- gov


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