Friday, March 21, 2014

Appreciating the passive voice

Rhetorician George Gopen recently wrote an article titled Why the Passive Voice Should Be Used Gopenand Appreciated—Not Avoided.  Gopen’s argument is that the passive “moves the furniture around” as “the feng shui of grammar.”  For example, the passive voice can put information in a desired stress position.  If your writing has focused on Smith, you can continue that focus with the passive voice: “Smith was convinced to cede his interest in the property by the false representations of Jones.”  Banning the passive voice, Gopen says, is “perhaps the single worst idea we teach about the English language.” His article in the winter 2014 Litigation journal contains other examples of the effective passive voice.

Gopen is the 2011 recipient of Legal Writing Institute's Golden Pen Award.


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