Want to be a better writer? Just let Albert Gonzales show you what not to do.
Recently, Gonzales took ownership of the controversial firing of eight US federal prosecuters. Or did he?
I acknowledge that mistakes were made here. I accept that responsibility.
He didn’t say:
I made mistakes and accept responsibility.
The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive
I shall always remember my first visit to Boston.
This is much better than
My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me.
The latter sentence is less direct, less bold, and less concise.
And certainly it was not wrong to try to secure freedom for our citizens held in barbaric captivity. But we did not achieve what we wished, and serious mistakes were made in trying to do so.
Both politicians purposely say “mistakes were made” to misdirect responsibility. They use passive voice to blur the connection between wrongdoing and wrongdoers.
Used intentionally or haphazardly, passive voice makes the written word whimper. It creates ambiguity, displaces responsibility, and distances the reader. Though politicians remain slavishly chained to it, you shouldn’t be.
When writing, don’t be Gonzales or The Gipper. Instead, use the active voice. Be direct, specific, and forceful.