I can't remember what led me to this site expressing opinions about grammar and writing. In one post the writer takes up arms against the evil passive. Here are some snippets to give a sense of the argument:
- Passive voice and passive writing doesn’t accomplish anything – nor does it seek or have the goal of accomplishing anything.
- lack of emphasis on anything in particular happening
- It just doesn’t make sense to beat around the bush in a business because nothing is going to get done.
- passive voice seems not only natural but in an over-abundance.
- I find passive voice distracting.
- it can be eliminated just about every time.
So one would expect him to avoid the passive in his post. He certainly should if he believes his own argument that the passive voice lacks urgency and accomplishes nothing.
Let me make it clear that I am not simply trying to highlight someone else's grammar mistakes. I'm not a high school English teacher (anymore). The passive voice is not a mistake. I don't even consider it poor writing. There are times when the passive voice makes for the clearest and most direct expression. There are also writers who abuse the passive voice. But when a self-proclaimed "grammarian" takes the stand against a form we have a right to evaluate the testimony. What we find is that the form of grammatical apologetics will either support the content or refute it. Very often we see that the argument relies on those very forms it tries to subjugate.
Here's what we find in the piece:
- "Being that I haven’t been inspired as of late"
- "Her thoughts were well spoken" : Okay these might be attributive and earn a pass. But then would a hyphen in "well-spoken" help to eliminate some of the ambiguity? As he has written this it could be an inversion of the passive "spoken well."
- "In the way that those stories are told"
- "it can be eliminated just about every time"
- "there is a sincere lack of attention paid to how things get written when something more formal is required."
- "What’s worse is that when I am asked to write something for someone in my office, it gets rewritten with passive voice" : Wow a "two-fer"...
He offers the following illustration of a sentence that he thinks is worse when a manager rewrites it in the passive.
I wrote: I need these forms to be signed by the end of the week, or Mr. X will not be able to get you your money.
Manager rewrote: These forms will need your signature sometime this week, so that your money may be sent out in a timely fashion.
We got our signed papers three days late. It's not straight-forward, and there's no sense of urgency.
The rewrite is an improvement. The tone is less patronising and more focused on a desirable outcome with positive claims instead of negation. Instead of ominously warning the client you might not get the money the rewrite offers a plan by which the money will be sent quickly. And one passive was simply traded for another.
He plays around with the passive voice in his last sentence (follow the link above to read it). It's a nice try. The joke falls flat after so many unwitting slips into the very mire he says all good writing avoids. It's like a tiny pie in the face of someone who's slopping around in a vat of banana cream. Too little to be funny.