Terrible Passive Verbs

This morning in my daily newspaper I read two sentences with passive verbs so bad that I had to write about them:

Owen is thanked for his past 12 years of service.

Republican McCraw is endorsed for lieutenant governor for the potential her skills and background hold for the state.

Some passive verbs are bad. Those are awful. Who thanks Owen for his years of service? Who endorses McCraw for her skills?

Actually I know it is The Seattle Times editorial board that endorses Owen, since I read these examples on the editorial page of today’s newspaper.

Here are simple revisions of those dreadful sentences:

We thank Owen for his past 12 years of service.

We endorse McCraw for lieutenant governor for the potential her skills and background hold for the state.

Normally I praise publicly and criticize anonymously. But editors should give us better writing.

To learn more about passive verbs and where they belong, read my “No Place for Passive Verbs,” “A Tip on Passive Verbs,” and “Know Where Passive Verbs Belong.” I thank you and endorse your reading them!

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.