Sunday, October 9, 2011
The Chronical of Higher Education published an interesting piece on passive voice this month. In it, Geoffrey Pullum argues that criticism of passive voice is overblown. Here is a snippet:
"More generally, do the writing tutors of the world really think we should not report that a politician has been shot until we can specify the gunman? Do they honestly think it’s wrong to say that the lights are left on all night in an office building without supplying a list of the individuals who controlled the switches? We really have to get over this superstitious horror about passives. It’s gone beyond a joke."
I think that passive voice is a particular evil in legal writing because writing clearly about who did what is critical when solving a legal problem. Any sentence structure that obscures who the actors are is problematic.