As written by today’s college graduates, communications are being weakened by a dependence on passivity

The active voice is an endangered species. College kids and recent grads uniformly write in the passiveWriting
voice. And, I’m at a loss as to explain why.

Is it the rise of text messaging? I don’t think so, because text by nature is short and to the point. Is it a lame attempt by kids to complete eight to 10-page-long term papers? Or, is it a misguided attempt to demonstrate intellect?

I wouldn’t mind if passivity wasn’t so pervasive. And, since poorly structured, verbose sentences reflect poorly on the writer, I think the entire topic needs more discussion. I’d invite thoughts from academics, PR professionals and others (med supply execs need not weigh in). I also plan to interview a few experts and post follow-up blogs next week.

In other words, and in the spirit of today’s blog, "…a healthy discussion from which much can be learned would be my goal."

Colter’s corollary:

Passive voice is acceptable or may even be required in sentences where you need to shine the spotlight on a certain word, such as putting a client name at the start. And an occasional passive sentence can break up a string of staccato declarative sentences. But generally prefer and strive for the active voice.

3 thoughts on “As written by today’s college graduates, communications are being weakened by a dependence on passivity

  1. This is one of may major writing complaints, too. It doesn’t help when ads on TV say things like, “I’m liking what I’m seeing,” (I believe that one is for Hotels.com). German, however, seems to prefer passive voice, but that is a whole other topic. 🙂

  2. Sydney Harris said “We have not passed that subtle line between childhood and adulthood until we move from the passive voice to the active voice-that is, until we have stopped saying ‘It got lost,’ and say, ‘I lost it.'”
    (Reminds me of Reagan’s “Mistakes were made” comment about Iran-Contra.)