Monday, October 18, 2010

Voice, Part 2: Passive Voice Can Be Good or Bad

The previous post showed how passive voice could be an improvement over active voice in certain situations. While in some instances passive is more concise than active, it generally is not as the examples below demonstrate.

Passive: The case was reviewed by the judge. (7 words)
Active: The judge reviewed the case. (5 words)

Passive: The hotel was designed by a renowned architect, and it is managed by an experienced team. (16 words)
Active: A renowned architect designed the hotel, and an experienced team manages it. (12 words)

In rare cases, passive is clearer, but active is lucid more often because the doers of the action are apparent, as in the examples below.

Passive: The usability test was conducted, but the report was not completed.
Active: R&D conducted the usability test but has not completed the report.

Passive: The check will be mailed when the invoice is received.
Active: I will mail the check when I receive the invoice.
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