Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Passive Voice Should not be Used

Never fully understood why the use of the passive voice set off so much wrath and agitation. My English instructors frowned upon it, to put it mildly, but nobody ever explained to me in concrete terms why.

Some of my instructors were more passionate about it than others. One instructor banned the use of it all together, and my papers always came back bleeding with corrections.

The passive voice is said to compromise clarity. Okay, I just used it, so hit me.

I used it because at issue here is the passive voice, not necessarily the identity of its detractors. People in general state that as an argument against using the passive voice, and who says it is of secondary importance. So in this case, converting the sentence to the active voice above will lead to confusion, not specificity.

More than two decades have passed since my high school years, and now I have garnered enough courage to ask why. It was not my place to ask questions at the time as a new arrival to the country with less than two years of English under his belt.

One instructor had me revisit every sentence with the passive voice and replace am, is, are, was, or were with get or got. So the title of the blog would be "The Passive voice should not get used."

Any attorneys out there accepting clients interested in suing for educational malpractice?

On a similar note, speaking with clarity posed a even greater challenge. Besides the usual l's and r's that Asians are prone to butchering, one of the most difficult words to pronounce was the word beach, and enunciating that word was a _____. Well, you will see.

"I am going to the b*tch"
"Watch your language, David."

"No, the beeeaaaaaach. Spelled B.E.A.C.H"
"Oh. Sorry. Which one? Redondo?"

"Santa Monica?"

"Yes. That b*tch"


At May 10, 2006 5:33 AM, Blogger Cindy said...

okay that's funny. :-)I'd like to go to the Santa Monica b*tch. Did they rebuild the pier after the big fire a few years ago?

At May 10, 2006 5:38 AM, Blogger Jenn said...

You sat b*tch like it's a bad word. :)

At May 10, 2006 5:42 AM, Blogger DPT said...

I was an English major in college, David. It's been said (heh) that rules are helpful if they're not employed legalistically.

Winston Churchill, a very fine writer and speaker, had this to say about another common error, ending a sentence with a preposition: "That is something up with which I will not put." Case closed.

At May 10, 2006 8:59 AM, Blogger Oricon Ailin said...

hehehehe. Nice beach.

At May 10, 2006 3:11 PM, Blogger Granny said...

I've always liked Churchill's attitude with respect to the preposition.

I memorized the same rules you did and usually ignore most of them.

At May 10, 2006 8:19 PM, Blogger David Cho said...

That is a great Churchill quote. Thanks.

At May 11, 2006 12:31 AM, Blogger David Cho said...

Jenn, I "sat" b*tch? Is there a hidden meaning?

At May 11, 2006 8:15 AM, Blogger Jenn said...

Oops, I mean you say b*tch like it's a bad word. Didn't see that. Haha.

Life's a beach and then you die. (doesn't that sound better than the alternative?)

At May 11, 2006 10:13 AM, Blogger Elevated said...

Are you going to phish while you're at the b*tch?

At May 11, 2006 4:29 PM, Blogger A thinker said...

David, you made me laugh out loud. Partly because I can "hear" my Korean friends saying beach that way.

And I've never believed that the passive voice should not be used. To me it is one of those rules that was made to be broken. Not excessively, of course. but still.

At May 18, 2006 9:48 AM, Anonymous Alison said...

For some reason, I think this post is hilarious.

At May 19, 2006 12:08 PM, Blogger L-girl said...

This post is great.

The passive voice sucks. It sucks the life out of your sentences. It should be saved for signs like "Se Habla Espanol".


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