Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Voices Passive and Active

Those of us misfortunate or misguided enough to have dealings with Microsoft’s word processing programme will be aware of Bill Gates�s campaign against the passive voice. (I’ll leave aside Microsoft�s cretinous insistence on commas before all relative pronouns.) But the passive voice is coming under attack from other quarters too.

Into my hands has fallen an English syllabus from an unnamed Polish university (note to grammarians: the passive voice is often used to hide the agent of the action). My astonishment can be imagined when I read that Polish students of English are being taught that the passive voice is used to keep the reader at arm’s length. It is seen as a sign of tension in the writer. Furthermore, it is apparently believed by the author of the syllabus that the passive is used by liars, ignoramuses and people who are ashamed of themselves. The use of the passive is to be stopped!

Elsewhere in the document it is stated that verbs should carry the meaning of sentences.

Oh really?

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