Reflections 01/01/99
Robert Kern Curtis

Passive Voice

The passive voice is being attacked. It is singled out for abuse by many computer grammar checkers whose programmers presumably had added difficulty working out appropriate algorithms to evaluate its subtleties. Then it began to be attacked by English teachers and this made even less sense. Surely students who fail to use English correctly should be corrected, and so those who say "The junior class is taking pictures for the yearbook during homeroom tomorrow." should be corrected if they do not mean that the junior class will have cameras and be snapping photo's.

But, correctly used, an author can be aided considerably by the careful use of the passive voice. I have been reminded of this by one of my own Latin students who was corrected by his English teacher for using the passive voice in an essay, when, in fact, the attacked sentence was actually in the active voice in the first place, and again on Christmas day, at a family reunion, when I was asked by my cousin, who is a professional writer, why his step-son was corrected by his English teacher at Regis High School for using the passive voice!

Using the passive voice correctly is a valuable linguistic tool and should not be attacked in these days of tolerating split infinitives, and failure of agreement of pronouns with their antecedents in the cause of sexual equality! (How did linguistic gender get involved with sex anyway, Madam Chairman?)

The correct use of the passive voice should be promoted and encouraged so that it remains a natural part of our language.

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Last modified Monday, 26-Oct-2015 00:24:00 EDT.