Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Legal writing often sounds overly formal because lawyers use too much passive voice. The active voice is where the actor is at the beginning of the sentence (before the verb), and the passive voice is where the actor is not at the beginning of the sentence or is not mentioned at all.
Writers should always use the active voice unless they have a reason to use the passive voice. For example, the passive voice is helpful for hiding the actor in persuasive writing. During the Clinton presidency, the White House was criticized for allowing donors to sleep in the historical rooms. President Clinton's response was, "Mistakes were made." This sentence shows honesty, while not actually blaming anyone.