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NOT:
Example 1. "It will ordinarily be to your advantage to itemize your de-

ductions if you are a homeowner paying interest and taxes,
or if you make large contributions to qualified charities, have
unusually large medical expenses during the year, pay ali-
mony, or incur a major uninsured casualty loss.”
BUT:
“It will ordinarily be to your advantage to itemize your de-
ductions if you-

1. are a homeowner paying interest and taxes,
2. make large contributions to qualified charities,
3. have unusually large medical expenses,
4. pay alimony, or
5. incur a major uninsured casualty loss.”

NOT:

Example 2. “An electing corporation must file a return, Form 1120_S,

for each tax year for which the election is effective, showing the items of its gross income and allowable deductions, the names and addresses of all persons owning stock in the corporation at any time during the tax year, the number of shares owned by each at all times during the tax year, the amount of money and other property distributed during the tax year to each and the date of such distribution, and such other information as is required by the return form.”

BUT:
“An electing corporation must file a return, Form 1120-S,
for each tax year for which the election is effective, showing:

1. The items of its gross income and allowable

deductions 2. The names and addresses of all persons own

ing ...."

deuy

(4) Economize on words

We can shorten our sentences in two other ways: (1) by compressing a group of words into one or two words, and (2) by cutting out unnecessary words.

The groups of words which can most easily be compressed are clauses beginning with who, which, or that. Often the information they contain can be boiled down to a few words and inserted in an earlier part of the sentence.

1. He was required to fill out forms which are very lengthy and

detailed.

He was required to fill out long and detailed forms. 2. Representatives provided with proper credentials called on

each family in the area to determine its attitude toward the
bond issue.

Accredited representatives called ...
3. Certain questions which relate to this issue ...

Certain questions relating to this issue ...
Certain questions relative to this issue ...
Certain relevant questions ...

Compress long prepositional phrases into one or two words. These expressions, such as “in the event that" instead of “if” and “with reference to" instead of “about,” may be part of what we believe necessary to government writing. Governmentese would sound far less pompous and forbidding if writers were not allowed to use these roundabout phrases.

Prior to the release of the handbook . . . would become ... before releasing the handbook.

Due to the fact that only two were approved ... would shrink to ... because two were approved.

You can deduct expenses for education incurred primarily for the purpose of maintaining skills or meeting express requirements ... would be shortened to . . . incurred primarily to maintain skills or to meet express requirements ...

We can shorten our sentences by lopping off some of the introductory phrases we use to launch into a sentence. Shortening the introduction not only saves words; this practice also lets the reader know at once what the message is. Not: It will be appreciated if you will distribute copies of the

notice.

But: Please distribute copies of the notice.

Not: A thorough search of the records of this office indicates that

you are correct in your assumption ...

But: You are correct in your assumption ...

Prefer the Active Voice

Active and passive

If you want to write more directly, more concisely, and more effectivelyuse active verbs.

This blunt statement does not outlaw the passive voice. Passive verbs have their place, performing duties that active verbs cannot. Use them when you need them. But when you have a choice between active and passive—use the active.

This is active-isn't it?

Can you recognize a verb in the active voice? Many writers subscribe to the theory of preferring active verbs over passive verbs, meanwhile hoping furtively that no one will ask them point blank, “Just what IS the difference, anyway?” Here are some tips that will prime you for answering that question.

Compare the FORM of the active and passive voices: ACTIVEI write (am writing) PASSIVE—it is written (is

being written) I write (did write)

it was written (was

being written) I will write

it will be written I have written

it has been written I had written

it had been written I will have written

it will have been

written Compare the USE of the two forms: An active verbwhen the doer of the action is the important thing.

The agent wrote the report. A passive verb—when the doer is unknown, or when what is done is more important than who did the action.

The report was written by the agent.

Why use the active voice?

For years the passive voice has predominated in government writing. It was just what the doctor ordered—it made our writing long, formal, deliberate, and dignified to the point of stiffness. And so the passive voice worked overtime for us. Now we are coming to see that the active voice can give our readers a more accurate picture of government writing and government writers. The active voice makes our writing simpler, more direct, shorter—and most important of all, easier to understand. In addition, our writing now sounds as if people had written it.

Let's look at some examples

“Consideration is being given this matter by our district office." Here the reader has to go to the very end of the sentence before he finds out WHO is considering the matter. You can save words and help your reader by using an active verb: “Our district office is considering the matter.” By making this correction you take care of two weaknesses: you substitute an active verb for a passive one, and you unearth the verb that the passive voice buried in a noun. “Give consideration” really means “to consider”—so you shorten and sharpen the sentence by using the “real” verb in the sentence.

"It is believed by corporation officials that this expense is de

ductible.” In this sentence the reader finds out a little earlier WHO believes an assumption about the expenses. To avoid the wind-up type of introduction and to use an active verb, we can begin directly: "Corporation officials believe that this expense is deductible.”

"Advice is requested by this office in connection with ..." is an opening of many sentences we have written. This is a formal way of asking for information. The receiver must, unless he too is versed in the ways of government writing, translate this wordiness into his everyday language: “Please tell (or send) us ..." Let's save him this unnecessary work by writing, “Please tell us (or please send us)..."

Perhaps you corrected this sentence by saying, “You are requested to advise this office in connection with ..." This, too, is a form we often use—and it too is a passive form. Grammatically, it is correct. But the sentence would be more effective-shorter, direct, personal, and courteous—if we rewrite it, “Please let us know about ..." Consider this paragraph of passives:

“This space will be utilized for a pilot run of the course materials. It is anticipated that supplementary materials will be produced in this workshop. As a result, it is recommended that the class be conducted in Washington, D. C., where clerical, visual aid, and other training support is readily available.”

Turning the passive verbs to active verbs will shorten the paragraph:

"We will use this space for a pilot run of the course materials.
We expect to produce supplementary material in this workshop.
Therefore, we recommend conducting the class in Washington,
D. C., where clerical, visual aid, and other training support is

readily available.” (Leaving the last verb unchanged was not an oversight. Here "is” is neither an active verb nor part of a passive, but a linking verb.)

Some passive verbs are right

Not all passive verbs should be changed to active verbs. In the sentence, “Occasionally, employees are required to travel on assignments which necessitate expenditures substantially in excess of reimbursement that would be obtained at the maximum per diem rate,” the passive verb are required is correct. We don't know who requires this; this sentence illustrates the correct use of the passive when the doer of the action is unknown.

“The mileage rate for use of privately owned motorcycles has been increased from 4 cents to 6 cents.” Here, again, we do not know who has increased the rates; the fact that they have been increased is more important than knowing who increased them. In this sentence, too, the passive voice is better than the active.

Summing it up

We use too many passive verbs in our writing; from habit we turn to passive verbs when we begin to write for Uncle Sam. We will do a more effective writing job if:

1. we can tell an active verb from a passive verb;
2. we know when to use a passive verb; and
3. we use active verbs instead of passive verbs when we have

a choice.

Write Head-On Sentences

(Use Real Subjects and Action Verbs)

Your response to this subheading may be a righteous, “Of course I use subjects and verbs! Doesn't everyone?” Yes, everyone does. But unfortunately, not all of us use REAL subjects and REAL verbs.

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