It’s not passive voice you hate: it’s intransitive verbs

Was there ever a grammatical form more maligned than the poor passive voice? Read that sentence again — see what I did? Look, I get it. Strunk and White told you not to use it (while writing several verbs in the passive on the very same page); Word’s grammar checker assaulted you with wiggly green lines; even Orwell warned you against it (and I’m a fan of everything else he wrote).

The problem is that the passive voice is only one way of disguising agency, and I don’t think it’s always the most insidious. When I see rants on Twitter about the alleged use of passive voice in news articles, the examples that are highlighted are almost never actually in the passive voice.* That’s not to excuse disingenuous writing, but it’s important to name the culprit.

Continue reading “It’s not passive voice you hate: it’s intransitive verbs”