Re: Numbers

Subject: Re: Numbers
From: Elna Tymes <etymes -at- LTS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 22 Dec 1998 09:46:58 -0800

John Posada wrote:

> Basicly, I said that I think we've reached a knee-jerk
> situation where, without knowing why, Active is good, Passive is bad. They both
> have their place.

Why? Because the style guides pretty much agree that active voice is preferable.
Because active voice tends to make readers feel like they're reading instructions,
rather than history.

> 1) Use "Displayed" rather than "Appears" since nothing in our field just
> "appears". Magicians make rabbits appear. Information is displayed. In fact,
> monitors used to be called VDTs (Video DISPLAY Terminals)

Nonsense. Look up the word "display" in a dictionary - it's defined as a
transitive verb, thus requiring an object. If you want to run the risk of having
your company gain a reputation for printing ungrammatical manuals, go right ahead.
But I think there will be plenty of folks who disagree with you. As for "appears"
having magical connotations, think of what happens when you open a door: the rest
of the world appears, not by magic, but because you did something that caused the
view to change. And of course it's Video Display Terminals - they display
information. (Note that "they display information" uses the grammatically correct
form of "display" - with the object "information.")

> 2) Show the action, then show the results.

Which is precisely the reason for using active voice, and for using objects with
transitive verbs.

John, if you want to quibble with the rules of English grammar, there are other,
considerably more appropriate places to do so. Having a personal preference for
ungrammatical construction in technical writing is like saying that you happen to
like eating moldy Cheddar cheese - while nobody would run the risk of serving it in
a commercial establishment because of the health rules involved, there are
individuals who LIKE it that way. In private.

Elna Tymes
Los Trancos Systems

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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