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Old 25.08.2004, 09:41   #1
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Lightbulb Active vs. passive voice

Hi,

Am not a blind advocate of active voice myself and believe that passive voice is not a taboo on technical writing. But then, in some companies such as one I worked for before translation costs were a major (and pointless) drain, we have been tending to take active voice pretty seriously.

There are two ways passive voice affects translation:

One is, of course, the increased word count, like why say something in seven words when you can say it in five? I believe the current rate for translation is $1 per word (or is it more?).

Second, passive voice is not quite amenable to translation and does
raise kinks in translation. Grammar and syntax are not really the same across languages....

Did you know, in Sanskrit, you can say "I stand" in passive voice. Now how would you translate it exactly into English: "It was stood by me?"


So, I think we could allow a deviation from active voice when describing system reponses etc so long as we are not translating stuff to other languages, and be a bit strict with passive voice if we know our docs are going to be translated.
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Old 25.08.2004, 12:34   #2
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Passive verbs lack a clear subject and should be avoided. Typical passive constructions are "should be avoided," "was done," and "is chosen." You need not avoid passive verbs at all costs, but their number should be few because active verbs give a stronger, more direct tone to your writing.
It addition to reading less well, passive verbs also promote vagueness, because they permit the author to avoid naming a subject. "It was determined that ..,"for example, fails to state who determined it. This fact explains why passive verbs are so popular in bureacratic and political discourse.

Source: John Hopkins Magazine.
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Old 25.08.2004, 13:11   #3
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I remember the old days, when MS Words grammar check would underlyne any passive voice you wrote...

Anyway, I don't believe one can really write anything more than one paragraph in active only, so I don't really believe it is much of a question. Of course, there are cases where passivi voice might sound informal, and that's not what the editor wants, but then that's another, and a very specific case.
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Old 17.12.2004, 11:23   #4
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It's though distinctive that Intel/IBM doc writers excessively overuse passive voice in their publications - although it's not a casus belli anymore as far the present trends in the writing sector are concerned and you as a writer are free to choose whether or not to use passive until your sentence reads incomprehensive enough and you have to revert back to active. I myself never liked the Stunk and Whites restrictions - after reading it I get my boat totally overloaded and everything I knew gets mixed.
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Old 21.12.2009, 17:57   #5
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Default Re: ACTIVE vs. PASSIVE Voice

Generally, active voice is the preferred method to use. It uses less words, is usually more direct and brief, and is a great way to explain the sentence. If you use a lot of passive voice then it makes sentences lengthy and result in confusion.
http://www.examplesof.com/language/passive_voice.html
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