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RE: passive vs active voice in May 9 Proposed reorganization

From: John M Slatin <john_slatin@austin.utexas.edu>
Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 11:12:07 -0500
Message-ID: <B3DC65CD2AA7EF449E554548C6FE111113564B@MAIL01.austin.utexas.edu>
To: "Lee Roberts" <leeroberts@roserockdesign.com>, <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>

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 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

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:

will be
have been
has been
had been
can be
could be

Passive verbs are often preceded by helping verbs (is, am, are, were,
was, been) or followed with by.


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

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.

Received on Friday, 30 May 2003 12:12:08 UTC

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