Baron notes that critics who downgrade the passive apply to its use such adjectives as ‘lazy’, ‘hazy’, ‘vague’, ‘distant’, ‘watery’, and ‘wordy’. He also draws attention to William Zinsser's observation: ‘The difference between an active-verb style and a passive-verb style—in pace, clarity and vigor—is the difference between life and death for a writer’ (in On Writing Well, Harper & Row, 1980). Opposition to the passive has been strong in recent years in two areas: among many campaigners for plain English and in style checkers, word-processing aids to the editing of especially business documents. Webster's Dictionary of English Usage (1989), however, lists three situations in which the passive has generally been regarded as useful: (1) When the receiver of the action is more important than the doer, as in The child was struck by the car. (2) When the doer is unknown (The store was robbed last night), unimportant (Plows should not be kept in the garage), or too obvious to be worth mentioning (Kennedy was elected president). (3) In scientific writing, because it helps establish a tone of detachment and impersonality. The dictionary's entry on passive concludes: ‘The point, finally, is that sentences cast in the passive have their uses and are an important tool for the writer. Everyone agrees you should not lean too heavily on passive sentences and that you should especially avoid awkwardly constructed passives. The few statistical studies we have seen or heard of indicate that you are likely to use the active voice most of the time anyway’ (p. 721). See ACADEMIC USAGE, PASSIVIZATION, TENSE, VERB.
pas·sive / ˈpasiv/ • adj. 1. accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance: the women were portrayed as passive victims. ∎ Chem. (of a metal) made unreactive by a thin inert surface layer of oxide. ∎ (of a circuit or device) containing no source of electromotive force. ∎ (of radar or a satellite) receiving or reflecting radiation from a transmitter or target rather than generating its own signal. ∎ relating to or denoting heating systems that make use of incident sunlight as an energy source.2. Gram. denoting or relating to a voice of verbs in which the subject undergoes the action of the verb (e.g., they were killed as opposed to he killed them). The opposite of active.• n. Gram. a passive form of a verb. ∎ (the passive) the passive voice.DERIVATIVES: pas·sive·ly adv.pas·sive·ness n.pas·siv·i·ty / paˈsivitē/ n.