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  1. #31
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    Kevin welcome to WAB, its your turn to contribute to the online tutoring session.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Brown View Post
    [I]In October of 1962, the United States faced the specter of nuclear war that would become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
    This crisis resulted when the Soviet Union, the ideological rival of the U.S., placed a number of nuclear armed missiles and ground forces in the belligerent island nation of Cuba, only 90 miles off the American coast in the Caribbean.
    In terms of a solution to this crisis, American policymakers had several military options that could have been pursued to resolve the crisis.
    Those three are all varying forms of what is called passive voice. Unless your observing an experiment,academic writing should be in active voice. Active voice means actors act. The actors can be ideas, events, people nations or what ever.

    #1. The United States faced the spector of nucelar war during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

    #2 The Soviet Union placed missiles and military forces in Cuba, only 90 miles from its ideological rival the United States.

    #3 American policy makers had several military options to respond with.

    Active voice creates shorter easier to read sentences. This is useful for the professor who has a stack of mostly junk papers to read and later when writing for publication since it makes even the most complex arguments clear and concise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Kevin welcome to WAB, its your turn to contribute to the online tutoring session.
    Z,

    All three statements were already in the active voice and not the passive voice. IMO, your comments here are stylistic in nature with regards to adjuncts. What you wrote is much more direct, but this can sometimes lead to either choppier paragraphs or losing important information in an attempt to strip out your adjuncts, and so without judging the sentences within the context of an actual paragraph, they may or may not work better. If I simply cobble your three reconstructed sentences together, my preference would be Kevin's construction of the opening paragraph in terms of sentence structure and content.

    Also, sometimes the passive voice is superior to the active voice depending upon what your sentence is focusing on, although as a rule of thumb, no passive voice is definitely the better option.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Z,

    All three statements were already in the active voice and not the passive voice. IMO, your comments here are stylistic in nature with regards to adjuncts. What you wrote is much more direct, but this can sometimes lead to either choppier paragraphs or losing important information in an attempt to strip out your adjuncts, and so without judging the sentences within the context of an actual paragraph, they may or may not work better. If I simply cobble your three reconstructed sentences together, my preference would be Kevin's construction of the opening paragraph in terms of sentence structure and content.

    Also, sometimes the passive voice is superior to the active voice depending upon what your sentence is focusing on, although as a rule of thumb, no passive voice is definitely the better option.
    My paper also ended up kind of awkward and misrepresented in terms of meaning in spots, because the forum wouldn't like me upload the word doc of it. So the formatting is kind of messed up.

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    Kevin, please don't take offense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Z,

    All three statements were already in the active voice and not the passive voice.
    Nope they are passive. Except for an introductory word or phrase the actor in a sentence should come before everything else. The adjuncts should come after the actor. For example, first sentence leads of with an adjunct- In 1962.

    The comment I use with undergrads are the following two sentences.

    Passive- The boy got bit by the dog.
    Active- The dog bit the boy.

    Its a simple sentence but it shows how much of a difference active vs passive can make.

    IMO, your comments here are stylistic in nature with regards to adjuncts. What you wrote is much more direct, but this can sometimes lead to either choppier paragraphs or losing important information in an attempt to strip out your adjuncts, and so without judging the sentences within the context of an actual paragraph, they may or may not work better. If I simply cobble your three reconstructed sentences together, my preference would be Kevin's construction of the opening paragraph in terms of sentence structure and content.
    If you go back and compare with the exception of the word military in place of "ground" and removal of the words "number of", the only things stripped where "would become known as" and "in terms of a solution". Neither of those two phrases added anything since the event IS known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the word response implies a search for a solution.

    Directness can lead to choppiness if the rest of the writing style is not there. This is why the writing process is holistic and requires so much reworking from idea to finished product.

    For example- The Kennedy Administration's approach to containing Soviet nuclear brinkmanship in Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis averted the threat of nuclear war.

    That sentence combines his first three in to a clear thesis. The three categories he identifies can then be listed and filled in with detail. it then leaves the rest of the space in the introductory paragraph ahead of (and after the) thesis for generalized stage setting.

    The drive for political dominance between the United States and Soviet Union set the stage for the Cold War's most enduring memory. During the height of the contest, the world found itself only "Two Minutes From Midnight". When tensions boiled over in the Caribbean humanities future was suddenly in doubt. Luckily, nuclear war was averted when the United States found a path through the minefield. The Kennedy Administration's dynamic approach to containing Soviet nuclear brinkmanship in Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis averted the threat of nuclear war.....

    This way the introduction is used to set the stage and lead to the thesis statement. The body is then used to expand the thesis points.

    Also, sometimes the passive voice is superior to the active voice depending upon what your sentence is focusing on, although as a rule of thumb, no passive voice is definitely the better option.
    With the exception of portions of lab reports or other personal observations passive is never superior. For example- Y behavior by X during C is possibly caused by A. Law can be similar- A was observed by B doing C or A's doing C violate B as set forth by D. Although all non-observation portions of the report should be in active voice. Professional writing relies on argument and you cannot effectively argue from the passive.

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    Z,

    Show me helping verbs in the three sentences you claim are written in the passive voice. No helping verbs = no passive voice.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Kevin, please don't take offense.



    Nope they are passive. Except for an introductory word or phrase the actor in a sentence should come before everything else. The adjuncts should come after the actor. For example, first sentence leads of with an adjunct- In 1962.

    The comment I use with undergrads are the following two sentences.

    Passive- The boy got bit by the dog.
    Active- The dog bit the boy.

    Its a simple sentence but it shows how much of a difference active vs passive can make.



    If you go back and compare with the exception of the word military in place of "ground" and removal of the words "number of", the only things stripped where "would become known as" and "in terms of a solution". Neither of those two phrases added anything since the event IS known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the word response implies a search for a solution.

    Directness can lead to choppiness if the rest of the writing style is not there. This is why the writing process is holistic and requires so much reworking from idea to finished product.

    For example- The Kennedy Administration's approach to containing Soviet nuclear brinkmanship in Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis averted the threat of nuclear war.

    That sentence combines his first three in to a clear thesis. The three categories he identifies can then be listed and filled in with detail. it then leaves the rest of the space in the introductory paragraph ahead of (and after the) thesis for generalized stage setting.

    The drive for political dominance between the United States and Soviet Union set the stage for the Cold War's most enduring memory. During the height of the contest, the world found itself only "Two Minutes From Midnight". When tensions boiled over in the Caribbean humanities future was suddenly in doubt. Luckily, nuclear war was averted when the United States found a path through the minefield. The Kennedy Administration's dynamic approach to containing Soviet nuclear brinkmanship in Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis averted the threat of nuclear war.....

    This way the introduction is used to set the stage and lead to the thesis statement. The body is then used to expand the thesis points.



    With the exception of portions of lab reports or other personal observations passive is never superior. For example- Y behavior by X during C is possibly caused by A. Law can be similar- A was observed by B doing C or A's doing C violate B as set forth by D. Although all non-observation portions of the report should be in active voice. Professional writing relies on argument and you cannot effectively argue from the passive.
    None taken,

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Z,

    Show me helping verbs in the three sentences you claim are written in the passive voice. No helping verbs = no passive voice.
    Shek, passive voice is not determined by verb choice but actor placement.

    Actor location can then determine verb choice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Shek, passive voice is not determined by verb choice but actor placement.

    Actor location can then determine verb choice.
    From my college handbook:

    The McGraw-Hill College Handbook, Third Edition, 1991, pages 251-252

    17e - Using Active and Passive Voice

    Learn the difference between the active voice and the passive voice. Use verbs in the active voice in most sentences; use verbs in the passive voice sparingly and only for good reason.

    The voice of a transitive verb tells us whether the subject is the actor in the sentence or is acted upon. (A transitive verb carries action from an agent to an object. A transitive verb can take a direct object; an intransitive verb does not take a direct object. See 5b.)

    When transitive verbs are in the active voice, the subject does the acting. When transitive verbs are in the passive voice, the subject is acted upon by an agent that is implied, or an agent that is expressed in a prepositional phrase. (Intransitive verbs cannot be passive. You can say "My brother brooded too much," but you cannot say "My brother was brooded.") In the passive voice, the transitive verb phrase includes some form of the verb to be.
    The presence of a helping verb (a form of "to be" or if speaking more colloquially, "to get") is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for passive voice to be present. None of the three sentences you rewrote had a helping verb to begin with and so they were not passive voice.

    In the context of this paper, if Kevin had wanted to explore Kennedy's inexperience, the use of the passive voice to highlight this could be the superior sentence construction, e.g., "Kennedy was inaugurated just over a year prior." It is not important that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court issued the oath of office - the point of the sentence it to focus on Kennedy and his newness as opposed to the person who inaugurated him.

    I'm with you that the passive voice is typically an inferior means of expression, but it has its uses and its important to define exactly what it is so that it can be properly recognized.

    I would also offer that based on my experience from the hundreds of paper I graded, use of passive vs. active voice will not make much of a grade difference. It muddles the assignment of responsibility, but this is at most less than a letter grade difference (unless it's a composition class where the point is to have superior construction). The key is to structure the paper properly so that you have a clear thesis statement, your introductory paragraph(s) outline the path you'll follow in the paper, your body then follows that outline and balances theory/assertions with evidence/examples, and then your conclusion ties the paper together and whets the appetite as to why the finding is important.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    From my college handbook:

    The presence of a helping verb (a form of "to be" or if speaking more colloquially, "to get") is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for passive voice to be present. None of the three sentences you rewrote had a helping verb to begin with and so they were not passive voice.
    If the action is ahead of the actor it is passive. To be and to get can indicate passive voice but are not required.

    In the context of this paper, if Kevin had wanted to explore Kennedy's inexperience, the use of the passive voice to highlight this could be the superior sentence construction, e.g., "Kennedy was inaugurated just over a year prior." It is not important that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court issued the oath of office - the point of the sentence it to focus on Kennedy and his newness as opposed to the person who inaugurated him.
    And active would still be superior. Assuming as you do the newness of Kennedy is what is important. then- Kennedy inaugerated just over a year earlier ..... In this case the actor is Kennedy and although a qualifier is put in, its after the actor and now the action will follow. In your example a second sentence is now required to explain the importance of his newness and this provides room for paper derailment.

    Your also going to have a hard time getting back to active voice from your sentence.

    Kennedy was inaugurated just over a year prior. You don't have a lot of options here. You can add an actor(s) to make the claim or try to explain why a year matters etc.

    meanwhile

    Kennedy inaugerated just over a year earlier was inexperianced. All I have to do now is cite the claim and then support it with followon writing. The leangth of time from his oath of office, to the crisis no longer matters.

    I'm with you that the passive voice is typically an inferior means of expression, but it has its uses and its important to define exactly what it is so that it can be properly recognized.
    I don't know if the definition has changed since 1991, so perhaps we are arguing two different things.

    Hodge's Harbrace Handbook 16th ed 2007

    7c p136 Voice

    Voice indicates the relationship between verb and its subject. When a verb is in the active voice, the subject is generally a person or thing performing an action.When a verb is in a passive voice, the subject is the reciever of the action.

    Susan Sontag wrote the essay [active]
    The essay was written by Susan Sontag [passive]

    I would also offer that based on my experience from the hundreds of paper I graded, use of passive vs. active voice will not make much of a grade difference. It muddles the assignment of responsibility, but this is at most less than a letter grade difference (unless it's a composition class where the point is to have superior construction). The key is to structure the paper properly so that you have a clear thesis statement, your introductory paragraph(s) outline the path you'll follow in the paper, your body then follows that outline and balances theory/assertions with evidence/examples, and then your conclusion ties the paper together and whets the appetite as to why the finding is important.
    As someone assigning a grade you see the final product. As someone who helps the production of the paper I see how it affects the process. I am a CRLA master level writing tutor with hundreds of session across just about every discipline offered at UCA. Active voice helps the clarity of the paper and helps the writer stay on topic. Passive voice can derail a paper by nudging the writer into unimportant areas.

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    Passive- The boy got bit by the dog.
    Active- The dog bit the boy

    Susan Sontag wrote the essay [active]
    The essay was written by Susan Sontag [passive]
    Helping verbs bolded.
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    Helping verbs bolded.
    Rephrasing to remove them however does not make them active.

    The boy recieved a bite from the dog. Is still passive since the doig is still the actor.

    The essay written by Susan Sontag. Is still passive unless the sentence is expanded to include the essay doing something. The essay written by Susan Sontag examined JFK's inexperiance.

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    The fact that this debate is even occurring indicates the uselessness of the 'avoid passive voice' rule.
    I enjoy being wrong too much to change my mind.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ArmchairGeneral View Post
    The fact that this debate is even occurring indicates the uselessness of the 'avoid passive voice' rule.
    No, it simply indicates two type A personalities
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by zraver View Post
    The boy recieved a bite from the dog. Is still passive since the doig is still the actor.
    It is active voice. The verb doing the action was changed from bite to receive. Who is receiving the object? The boy.

    Quote Originally Posted by zraver
    The essay written by Susan Sontag. Is still passive unless the sentence is expanded to include the essay doing something. The essay written by Susan Sontag examined JFK's inexperiance.
    Actually, it's a fragment
    "So little pains do the vulgar take in the investigation of truth, accepting readily the first story that comes to hand." Thucydides 1.20.3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shek View Post
    No, it simply indicates two type A personalities
    Heh. Seriously, though, the rule about passive voice is almost completely unhelpful for most people- anyone whose grasp of English is good enough to reliably identify the passive voice is probably a good enough writer that they don't need rules like that. And there are plenty of good writers who are completely incapable of identifying passives, as Language Log has tirelessly documented.

    All it does is make people worry about their writing unnecessarily. Rules for writing should be simple, easy to understand, and with few and/or clearcut exceptions.

    Of course, this is all coming from someone who managed to avoid all but the most minimal grammar instruction...and a fan of the notorious Strunk 'n White haters at Language Log, to boot. Ignorant and biased, a perfect combination.
    Last edited by ArmchairGeneral; 03 Jan 11, at 04:46.
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