The Passive Engineer By: Leahmarie Ecle English 393 June 19, 2006
What is the Passive Voice? • The passive voice inverts the active verb to place emphasis on what happened as opposed to who did it. Ex: (Active) I repaired the radio. (Passive) The radio was repaired by me. The radio was repaired.
Transformation • The object (radio) of the active sentence becomes the subject of the passive sentence • The passive verb consists of a form of the verb “be” and the past participle of the main verb (repaired) • The actor is part of a prepositional phrase (byme). The actor can be omitted altogether as well.
When to Use the Passive Voice 1. When you want to emphasize results. Ex: (Active) Our students followed our advice. (Passive) Our advice was followed. 2. When the sentence doesn’t need an actor.
When Not to Use the Passive Voice • When you write instructions - Instructions should be written with active/imperative verbs - Instructions must indicate an actor Ex: (Active) Store components in protective enclosures. (Passive) Components are stored in protective enclosures.
When Not to Use the Passive Voice 2. When ‘it’ is the subject of the passive verb - Delete “it is expected that” and “it is recommended that” Ex: (Active) We recommend instituting this new policy. (Passive) It is recommended that the new policy be instituted at once.
Why Do Engineers Use the Passive Voice? 1. The passive sounds objective 2. Using I or We sounds unprofessional 3. The passive emphasizes results
“The Passive Sounds Objective” • Engineers do not want their data to be clouded with personal opinions • The passive sounds distant and authoritative
Why the First Reason is Unsound • If you use a rational (objective) method to collect and analyze data and worked honestly, your work is objective. • Writers don’t compromise their objectivity by writing clearly and cannot rectify slanted work using the passive voice.
Using “I” and “We” Sounds Unprofessional • Engineers were encouraged not to use “I” and “We” because they were not deemed professional • The passive voice was used to avoid forbidden pronouns
Why the Second Reason is Unsound • The passive voice does not make writing sound unprofessional • The passive voice is a way engineers can avoid taking responsibility • The passive voice can soften harsh statements Ex: “The resume was sent without being proofread” Instead of “mistakes were made”
The Passive Emphasizes Results • Scientific reporting relies on the passive voice to emphasize results and actions instead of the actor or engineer • However, the active voice may convey the meaning better. • Status reports should always identify an actor Ex: We managed the project successfully. NOT: The project was managed successfully. […by whom?]
Works Cited “The Passive Engineer.” Professional Training Company. Factotum Ink, Ltd. 21 Nov 2005. 10 Jun 2006.