Loss of the passive

Today, Geoffrey Leech (University of Lancaster) gave a plenary lecture at the Helsinki Corpus Festival, called “Decline and (?)disappearance: The negative side of recent changes in Standard English”. One of his examples of recent change was the loss of the passive construction in English.

Factors contributing to this develepment, according to Leech, included the current forces of prescriptivism: usage guides, particularly in  American English, often pronounce themselves against the use of the passive, and British English would appear to be influenced by this.

Particularly the grammar check of Word for Windows, Leech noted, contributes to a feeling of insecurity in this respect, causing writers to remove passive constructions from their writing.

Does Word for Windows have any other such effects on usage?

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1 Response to Loss of the passive

  1. Robin Straaijer says:

    Was he talking about the loss of the passive in language in general or about specifically in academic writing?
    I know for myself that even though I don’t use the grammar check for MS Word and don’t use usage guides, I do at time try to limit my use of the passive tense in my academic writing. Usually I do this to make descriptions of something that I have done less impersonal and to make the tone of the article more active and involved.

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