W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > w3c-wai-gl@w3.org > April to June 2003

Re: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization

From: Kerstin Goldsmith <kerstin.goldsmith@oracle.com>
Date: Tue, 03 Jun 2003 12:42:57 -0700
Message-ID: <3EDCFA41.7020602@oracle.com>
To: gv@trace.wisc.edu
CC: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org, richard.ishida@w3c.org

Just one more note to add about passive versus active from a 
localization perspective - it is often
much harder to translated passive sentences into other languages than 
active ones, especially for translation memory machines, which can be 
"taught" to look for subject-verb-object coming from certain languages 
in order to do fuzzy-logic matching.  We always recommend that writers 
try to use the standard SVO in English for such reasons.  So, even if 
the implied subject needs to be declared, it might be the best form for 
understanding the checkpoints internationally.

I know that the Guidelines are translated - and I know that they will 
probably be translated into even more languages once/if they are 
integrated into more legal contexts for support in the EU and possibly 
Asia (?) - so this should probably be a consideration.

Richard Ishida can probably say more.  Richard - any thoughts?

Cheers,
-Kerstin

Gregg Vanderheiden wrote:

>Thanks John
>
>This is helpful.  
>
>I wonder if our work might fall into the category of "places where passive
>might be indicated".  I wonder this because the do-er is the
>author/web-site-owner/person responsible or someone --but we've never been
>able to say exactly who.   And sometimes it is the author and sometimes it
>is the reviewer/certifier.  
>
>So far, all the active versions I could come up and those I saw from others
>were either in the wrong form (e.g. imperative instead of declarative) or
>they seem to be more complicated or ambiguous (or actually say something
>different than intended) than the passive forms we had.  
>
>We have some people who will be taking a pass at this though - so we will
>see if we can come up with active sentences that are declarative and that
>don't change the meaning of the checkpoints.   As I said, whenever I tried
>to do this, I always end up with a complicated sentence or a sentence
>without a subject I can define properly.  
>
>So I wonder if passive, declarative will be the simplest to understand for
>these types of items.    
>
>(NOTE:  the guidelines are Imperative, and are intended to be such -- with
>an implied subject of "you" - which assumes the reader is that author.  I
>THINK we are ok on that......)
>
>Thanks for your comments on this.
> 
>Gregg
>
> -- ------------------------------ 
>Gregg C Vanderheiden Ph.D. 
>Professor - Ind. Engr. & BioMed Engr.
>Director - Trace R & D Center 
>University of Wisconsin-Madison 
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On Behalf
>Of John M Slatin
>Sent: Friday, May 30, 2003 11:12 AM
>To: Lee Roberts; w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
>Subject: RE: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization
>
>
>A somewhat eaiser way to think about the distinction between active and
>passive voice is to look at the grammatical subject of the verb.  If
>something is being done *to* that subject, the sentence is in the
>passive voice.  If the (grammatical) subject is *doing* something, then
>the sentence is in the active voice.  
>
>Example: "John read his email all morning" is in the active voice.  But
>"John's email was read to him" is in passive voice.  "John" is the
>grammatical subject of both sentences, but in the first example John is
>the actor and in the second Hjohn is being acted upon.
>
>Many people believe that active voice is clearer and easier to
>understand.  But it is believed by many people that passive voice is
>better used in certain contexts, such as bureaucratic documents for
>which responsibility is not wanted by anyone.
>
>Passive constructions are often longer and harder to control...
>
>John
>
>John Slatin, Ph.D.
>Director, Institute for Technology & Learning
>University of Texas at Austin
>FAC 248C
>1 University Station G9600
>Austin, TX 78712
>ph 512-495-4288, f 512-495-4524
>email jslatin@mail.utexas.edu
>web http://www.ital.utexas.edu
> 
>
>
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Lee Roberts [mailto:leeroberts@roserockdesign.com] 
>Sent: Thursday, May 29, 2003 7:30 pm
>To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
>Subject: RE: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization
>
>
>
>David,
>Great job pointing this out.  You have a good concept there, however any
>connotation of the verb "to be" is passive.  Therefore, the following
>verbs and connotations are passive:
>
>am
>is
>are
>was
>will be
>were
>have been
>has been
>had been
>can be
>could be
>be
>being
>been
>had
>have
>has
>do
>did
>does
>could
>should
>would
>
>Passive verbs are often preceded by helping verbs (is, am, are, were,
>was, been) or followed with by.
>
>Therefore,
>
>Active (this is passive because of the verb are)
>
>1-C3   [1.3]  All content and structure are [separate or separable from]
>
>available independently of presentation.
>
>Truly Active Voice
>Provided conventions separate the content and structure elements from
>the presentation elements.
>
>
>Active (this is passive because of the verb is)
>
>2-C1   [2.1]   Ensure that all of the functionality is operable at a 
>minimum through a keyboard or a keyboard interface.
>
>Truly Active Voice
>All functionality operates from the keyboard or through a keyboard type
>interface.
>
>
>Active (this is passive because of the verb are)
>
>4-C2   [5.2]   Ensure that technologies relied upon by the content are 
>declared and widely available.
>
>Truly Active Voice
>The content relies upon declared and widely available technologies.
>
>
>Each of the adaptations noted above rely upon the active voice of verbs
>without the use of "to be" verbs.  "To be" verbs cause ambiguity and
>therefore cause passivity in the message relayed through the sentence.
>Either the subject acts upon the object in present time or in the past.
>
>Lee
>
>
>
>
>
>  
>
Received on Tuesday, 3 June 2003 15:43:16 GMT

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.2.0+W3C-0.50 : Monday, 7 December 2009 10:47:22 GMT