Saturday, March 3

Passive voice is not a luxury. It is a crime.

Memo to the blogosphere: avoid passive voice forever or else. If you are tempted to use the passive voice in a blog post, I suggest vigorous use of the backspace key, and a cut and paste from what a commenter over at JockoHomo said:

Screw you fascist control freak talibangelical douchebags, this is America! Queer power! Queer power!

In fact, I may just adopt this as my mantra as I sit in my yurt. Or, more likely, behind the wheel of my minivan as I drive my three kids to school.


  1. Heh. I had a debate coach who would very ludly and theatrically pretend to fall asleep anytime someone dared to use the hated "passive" voice. As she used to say, "There is NOTHING passive about forensics."

  2. I hope this isn't serious!

    The passive voice is perfectly suited for many things. (Oh, gosh, sorry. Many things find the passive voice to be ... (Oh gosh. There are many things you can only say well using the passive voice.))

    Frequently I find those who rail against the passive can't even recognize it. (Oddly, even some who defend can't recognize it - I have in mind a BBC article about writing news for children that said "We use passive constructions ("Five girls have died", not "The man went in and shot five girls")" - that's not passive.)

    But even if you can tell what it is, you can't claim it should never be used. You even used it yourself (If you are tempted...).

    Passive can of course be overused and misused, but I find those who rail against it don't understand it. I've written a lenghty post (the virtues of the passive which I invite you to read and comment on.

  3. Writing in 3rd person is still okay, right?

    Evil Spock is just checking . . .

  4. How about a tee-shirt with the phrase "I'm with this talibangelical douchebag" and under it, an arrow pointing to the right? Hot item?

  5. david donnell5:10 PM

    Regarding the BS about avoiding the passive voice... A snippet of a longer piece from

    How long have we been avoiding the passive, and why?
    July 22, 2006

    [...] George Orwell's 1946 article "Politics and the English Language" [...] firmly instructs us: "Never use the passive where you can use the active." [...] the injunction was a commonplace in college writing handbooks in the 30s and 40s (in the U.S., anyway)

    [...] it's likely that [Orwell's] very influential essay brought Avoid Passive to a much larger audience than it had before; no doubt Strunk and White's equally influential Elements of Style (1st ed. 1959) helped spread the word in the U.S. Eventually, Avoid Passive becomes a central element in the ideology of English writing style.

    But where DID it originate?

    Fowler (1926) shows no animus against the passive, nor do the great American grammar ranters of the late 19th century, Richard Grant White and Alfred Ayres. Hall's (1917) survey of disputed usages doesn't mention Avoid Passive or anything like it. Something seems to have happened (possibly only in the U.S.) in the first two decades of the 20th century [...] in the 30s we see handbooks characterizing the passive voice as a weakness to be avoided.


    Every so often, an author will perceive some infelicity in student writing [...] and a new injunction will find its way into a handbook. And probably then propagate to other handbooks. This is quite likely what happened with Avoid Passive.

    [...] Several people have suggested to me that overt opposition to passives is much less strong in the U.K. than in the U.S., and that in fact passives are more frequent in formal speaking and writing in the U.K. than in the U.S. [...]

    Posted by Arnold Zwicky at July 22, 2006 08:11 PM

  6. the consistency of good writing is often the hobgoblin which is proferred by small minds...

    oh, sorry, that's the passive agressive voice...

  7. I'm laughing my ass off!


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