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RE: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization

From: Richard Ishida <ishida@w3.org>
Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2003 13:09:54 +0100
To: "'David MacDonald'" <befree@magma.ca>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <001c01c32c24$8a75b300$6501a8c0@w3c40upc3ma3j2>
I agree that all  a consistent style should be used  for all statements,
but I would characterise things slightly differently.
If you are writing guidelines, it often is best, in my mind to write
using an imperative verb, eg. Ensure that... Fix the X so that...  Turn
the Y to face .... 
If you are writing a checklist, it may be better to *describe the
desired state*.  This is not necessarily a passive construction.  The
example below provides a useful case in point.  
All of the passive variants listed here are difficult to parse,
understand and translate.  However, the original text is already a
succinct description of the desired state, and in my mind works well.
(Though it might be changed to "Users can eliminate screen flicker" or
"Users do not experience screen flicker", whichever the actual meaning
(Note that one of the key identifiers of a passive construction is the
presence of the word 'by'.  Relegating the subject of the action to a
prepositional phrase in this way often causes the complications in
Hope that helps,

Richard Ishida

tel: +44 1753 480 292

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org] On
Behalf Of David MacDonald
Sent: 06 June 2003 00:22
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: RE: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization

I did not have the latest (May 23) draft of the guidelines.  I can see
that 3 of the 4 suggestions I made were implemented.  So I withdraw my
last suggestions. That leaves just one lonely guideline in the "active"


2 E-1   User can avoid experiencing screen flicker. [was 2.3]


I'm kind of shy to change this to the passive voice because it may not
work as well and we would change it simply for grammatical consistency
with the rest of the guidelines - but here it goes:


2 E-1    Screen flicker can be avoided by the user. [was 2.3]


2 E-1    The experience of Screen flicker can be avoided by the user.
[was 2.3]


I think the following might be a better use of the passive voice:


2 E-1    Screen flicker can be prevented by the user. [was 2.3]


David MacDonald




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       ...Barriers Disable Them


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Received on Friday, 6 June 2003 08:11:00 UTC

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