Tuesday, August 14, 2007

-tion Words: A Specific Example

I finally gave in to the peer pressure and joined Stumble Upon today. My weakness was rewarded instantly with Visuwords. Sure, you could use a normal thesaurus, but why would you when this fun toy is out there? It seems to work best when you use the most basic form of a word, e.g. fascinate instead of fascination. You can build your vocabulary and discover connections between words you never associated with each other.

That was a distraction from my thoughts for today. I was lying in bed last night, thinking about –tion words. Yes, I lead an exciting life. I was trying to think of sentences using them that avoid the passive voice. I came up with, “Participation is required.” Does the “is” make this a passive sentence? Think of it this way – who is doing the requiring? Is it the participation? Nope.

Add the actor such: “Participation is required by the management.” Clearly, the sentence is passive. It relegates the actor to a footnote at the end. Rearrange it and you have, “The management requires participation.” Ah, our feckless verb “require” becomes active at last!

But you still have the –tion word. “The management requires that you participate.” Ah, here we have the management doing something that acts on you, who then acts (or suffers the implied consequences). But is the –tion really so bad? Consider the implied end of the sentence – the management requires the participation of you. You can argue that that is not clear, that you believed participation was being required of someone else. Eliminating the –tion words makes the sentence clear. That’s what all of these rules are for, isn’t it?

If you’re tired of my take on the matter of the passive voice, try Michael Dembrow’s on getting active. If you're not, check out my last post on -tion words.