June 27, 2010

Active and Passive Fronts

Of course, the conventional wisdom, per Strunk and White and Elements of Style, is that passive voice is bad writing...the extent of hyperbole on the subject tells you that it may very well be the root of evil. It "is" true that "to be" is a rather fluffy verb construction in the English language. The state of being is the stuff of fluff in all languages, I'd say. Mostly, it sets up adjectives in English. Of course, a poet or other creative writer might spice it with a noun or so, a la "Demography is destiny" or some such nonsense. But usually, we're talking about present tense and we're talking common, thin descriptors like "nice," "done," or "open."

But I think going far to the extreme of active voice can be just as dull. Instead of light and fluffy text you end up with dense, hard matter that readers can't get a look at for long. It becomes hard to concentrate. All nouns and verbs and no states of being can cause problems just as big as the converse.

No doubt, a surplus of active voice is a good problem to have. Once you've got a compact script rife with meaning, you can easily lighten it up.

It's like mixing a fruit juice and finding it too sweet. Just add water and you've got something delicious.

Yet another example, in a long line, of spots where moderation is a value of good writing.

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