(K. Brent Tomer),
PITY the passive voice. No feature of the grammar of English has such a bad reputation. Style guides, including that of The Economist, as well as usage books like the celebrated American “Elements of Style”, warn writers off the passive, and automated grammar-checkers often suggest that passive clauses be redrafted. There are just two problems with this advice. One is that a diminishing proportion of the world’s pundits seem to know what the passive voice is. And the other is that the advice is an unwieldy hammer, when not every writing problem is a nail.
The proper brief against the passive is twofold. One is that it can obscure who did what in a sentence. Barack Obama said recently that “There is no doubt that civilians were killed that shouldn’t have been,” the passive voice hiding who did that killing: drones under the president’s command. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee to replace Mr Obama as president, tried to slip away from the controversy of his racist comments about a Mexican-American judge: “Questions were raised” about the judge’s impartiality, said Mr Trump. Who raised those…Continue reading