With so much recent discussion of passive voice verbs, I just have to jump in.
Control the actors and the story by controlling the point of view.
The reader of mystery novels has one question: Who dunnit?
You can control the story, and the reader’s response, by your choice of active or passive verbs, hidden or key actors and clear or ambiguous words.
You can find helpful and amusing advice in The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager and the Doomed, by Karen Gordon.
Sometimes it will be in your client’s interest to obscure the facts and the focus of responsibility. In this situation, you may want to use the style of avoidance and be indirect:
To be indirect, convert verbs to passive form, replace verbs with nominalizations, and eliminate actors. But remember, this style is not reader-friendly.
There are also times when you are not aiming for clarity and precision. Sometimes it is a matter of courtesy — it may be rude to state the obvious or identify the guilty party. Legal writer Henry Weihofen says,
Naked clarity can be embarrassing. Passive voice works when you don’t want to name the actor.
Some situations even justify violating the rules of grammar. If you are certain that it is necessary, go ahead. Situations where legal writer Timothy Perrin’s “one unbreakable rule” demands application:
Occasionally, a good writer breaks rules for an effect. That’s fine provided she knows what she is doing….So that is my only unbreakable rule. You can break any rule I tell you if
* you know the rule
* you know you are breaking it and
* you can give a good reason why.
The writing consultants at Clearlines (George Gopen, Joseph Williams, Gregory Colomb and Frank Kinahan) explained the conscious use of direct and indirect writing to control response in Mastering Legal Writing & Editing: How to Write Better & Faster:
If your client is on the side of the angels, make him an actor and express his good actions as verbs. Example: Mr. Doe contributed over $10,000 to the orphans’ fund in 1986.
If your client has behaved in less than perfect fashion, get him offstage and retreat into passives and nominalizations. Example: The embezzlement from the orphans’ fund is said to comprise a sum exceeding $10,000.
Conversely, if your opponent is on the side of the angels, get him offstage and retreat into passives and nominalizations. Example: The contribution to the orphans’ fund is said to comprise a sum exceeding $10,000.
Finally, if your opponent has behaved in less than perfect fashion, make him an actor and express his actions as verbs. Example: Mr. Smith embezzled over $10,000 from the orphans’ fund in 1986.