Mudcat Café message #1608989 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #86382   Message #1608989
Posted By: Don Firth
19-Nov-05 - 02:17 PM
Thread Name: BS: Irritatin' phrases....
Subject: RE: BS: Irritatin' phrases....
Passive sentences. Governmentese. Jim Dixon, I hear you!

I'm sure that the passive voice is de rigeur for government documents in particular because nobody has to accept responsibility for anything. "A mistake was made" allows everybody to tuck their heads between their shoulders and mutter, "Not me!"

During the late Eighties I worked for a couple of years as a technical writer, writing up residential weatherization inspectors' reports for the Bonneville Power Administration. In a six page report, about two of those pages were boilerplate that was downright opaque, mainly because of long, convoluted sentences in passive voice. One afternoon when no data had come in yet from inspectors and there was little for me to do, I took a 120 word paragraph out of the boilerplate and tried to suss out what it was really trying to say. I managed to rewrite it into two fairly short, clear paragraphs totaling 90 words. In my next report, I replaced the boilerplate paragraph with my clear, more concise paragraphs. I naively thought that I was doing the BPA a favor and whenever I had the opportunity, I'd go through the whole document, clean it up, and make it readable.

Guess who got his hand slapped and told to replace the original paragraph?

Don Firth