If someone posts something on a blog/website that’s open for anyone and everyone to read, it’s okay to have an opinion about what’s on that blog/website, right?
(That’s your early warning: Weaver is on a rampage again; he’s annoyed about some writing-related bullshit posted online by someone who, if their claims of grammatical competence are true, Ought to Know Better. In this case, that someone is a freelance editor who doesn’t know what the hell passive voice is… and also doesn’t know that book titles should be italicized, not enclosed in double quotation marks, but I won’t be addressing that error in this post.)
Today, we’re here to take a close look at yet another bullshit post about “passive voice” and how apparently “passive voice” is any sentence structure the BSer doesn’t like.
Here’s an example of “passive voice” from the above infographic-ish thing: Arcing across the sky was a streak of light, as a falling star.
That’s not passive voice, friends. (Don’t believe me? Try the zombie test; add by zombies after the predicate verb and see if it makes sense… and of course is doesn’t.) “Editor” says it’s passive because the verb is arcing, and since arcing isn’t right next to the subject of the sentence…
*rolls eyes* That’s not how it works. Word order is not what determines whether a sentence is active or passive. Also, yes, arcing is a verb, but it’s not the verb; it’s not the predicate verb in that sentence. The predicate verb is was. (Use of a to be verb — is, was, are, etc. — doesn’t automatically make a sentence passive, either. It was raining by zombies. Nope. Doesn’t work.)
“Editor” also says this sentence is passive voice: Through him was running an icy shiver.
(Spoiler: It’s not passive voice.)
“Editor” says that, because shiver is the subject of the sentence, and shiver isn’t right next to the verb, the sentence is passive.
Much wrong. So idjit. Wow.
(From the editor’s own About page: “Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.” That is passive voice, friends… plus the placement of also is awkward. Try the zombie test on this sentence: “Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published by zombies.” I don’t doubt it.)
I shouldn’t use or even reference someone else’s material without giving credit, right? 🙂 So, in case you can’t read the fine print at the bottom of that “Writing Tip” infographic, the URL there is inventingrealityediting.wordpress.com. Personally, I find the name rather appropriate, since the “editor” seems bent on inventing his own reality for the definition of passive voice.
(Want a reliable, accurate, and easy-to-understand source of information about passive voice and how to identify it? See what Grammar Girl has to say.)