Passive-Aggressive Voice

ImageFor any WordPress blogger who uses the ‘writer’s little helper’ before publishing a new post– you know, the one that insinuates you’re using the wimpy, passive voice– I salute you.  The editor (proofreader)  has issues with us bloggers, pure and simple.  The editor (let’s call her Eddie) is very aggressive about passive voice, idioms, clichés, hidden verbs.  She pushes and pushes.  When push comes to shove, we take a deliberate stand,  and support all grammar conscientious objectors.  It could be worth noting that the passive voice gets you shot at in a war zone, whereas the more aggressive active voice would be the one shooting at you.

Eddie wants action– all the time.  Sometimes it may have been necessary to use the passive voice.  Oh, look, did I just use the passive voice?  No.  The passive voice entails  more than just using a “being” verb.  It is occasionally necessary and does not by itself constitute the passive voice.  A passive construction occurs when you make the object of an action into the subject of a sentence.  For instance:  why was the road crossed by the chicken?  Go ahead and click on “Ignore always”.  Eddie becomes quite obnoxious when you do that.


Using the passive voice is a stylistic issue.  I don’t always want to use the active voice.  There are times that the passive lends more of a mood,  albeit no clarity,  to the passage.  For example:  Plastic surgery has been Joan Rivers’ favorite past-time for the past 100 years.   Now let’s change that to:  Joan Rivers’ favorite past-time has been to score more plastic surgery than Bruce Jenner.  See the difference?  Let me clarify.   Bruce Jenner has been on the receiving end of a lot of plastic surgery.  Therefore, Joan Rivers could win a Gold Medal in the Decathlon ( It’s a simple function of a “truth table”:  if this, then that).

So, next time you use Eddie, take a stand and “ignore suggestion”.  If you’re feeling a little reckless,  “ignore always”.   Unless of course there’s the “explain” option.  I get confused with that one.  Are we  supposed to explain “to” Eddie why we used the passive voice?


When I was a kid I wanted to be an "atomic" scientist. Not anything my mother expected of me. Well, I became a scientist, just not an atomic one.

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February 2014
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