appears vs is displayed

Subject: appears vs is displayed
From: Robert Justice <rjustice -at- INFORMIX -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 09:05:46 -0600


Let me play Devil's advocate here ...

The primary problem with the passive voice is that it hides the agent of the
action (subject). This is why our high school writing instructors urged us
to use active verbs, where the subject is clear, rather than "weak" to be
verbs with no visible agent. So, "is displayed" offers no advantage in the
"sounds less magical" category; in fact, it actually sounds more "magical"
than "appears." "Is displayed" by whom? No one, I guess. It just happens.

It's no coincidence that company memos are often written in the passive
voice; this hiding of the subject is seen as an advantage when no one wants
to accept responsibility for unwelcome news. "It has been determined that
layoffs are required ..." "Determined by whom? No subject.

In short, I think one would need a different argument to support "is
displayed" over "appears."

Rob Justice

PS. Oh, all right. I'll stop fence-sitting. I vote for "appears." When
in doubt, steer clear of the passive.

>Date: Tue, 25 Mar 1997 08:26:34 -0600
>From: "Robin M. Allen" <robin -dot- m -dot- allen -at- WORLDNET -dot- ATT -dot- NET>
>Subject: appears vs is displayed
>MIME-Version: 1.0
>Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii
>Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
>Hi ya'll:
>I'm in the middle of a raging debate among several tech writers about
>the use of "appears" vs "is displayed," e.g.:
>"Click Add and the Add Patient window is displayed."
>"Click Add and the Add Patient window appears."
>Even though it uses the passive voice, I personally prefer "is
>displayed." To me, "appears" sounds like it happens through magic. Any

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