Another reason for a fresh set of eyes
ESL students learn how to swear



The reliance on active voice makes sense in creative writing. In legal advocacy, though, the measured and informed use of passive voice offers a tool that should not be ignored. Sometimes you want to shift the focus away from the actor to the result. In some cases the actor is not specifically known. Other times using passive voice allows you to place the emphasis of the sentence where you want it to be to make your legal point. A legal argument riddled with passive voice is usually difficult and boring to read, but the form should not be categorically banned from legal writing either.


Kristen, you’re right. Bryan Garner says to stick with the active voice—unless you have a good reason to use the passive voice. And among the good reasons he and other experts give for using passive voice are the two you identify.

Liz Tucker

In any style of writing one occasionally needs to use the passive voice, but the point is most of the time you don't. Not only is the active voice a much clearer way to write, it also prevents the writer becoming too pompous. There is something about writing in the passive that seems to encourage a certain kind of pomposity.

Jason Black


Thanks for the link to my article! That one, oddly enough, has been one of my all-time most popular articles.

Certainly, as Kristen says, there are times when passive voice creates a desirable effect. Even in fiction. "Andre! The secret documents have been stolen!" It's perfect (especially in dialogue) when as Kristen points out, you don't know--or particularly care--who the agent of action was.

Bear in mind, my blog is about techniques for character development in fiction. I certainly make no claim on advising people how to write legal briefs, term papers, scientific articles, et cetera. (Although I do have a lawyer client who has me help him bring out the story elements in his briefs to create maximum impact. Storytelling is useful everywhere.)

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