The passive voice makes me crazy. I used it embarrassingly often when I started my writing job, but once it was pointed out to me, I avoided it as much as I could. (And yes, I realize I just used it in that sentence!) Once you learn to recognize it, you realize how unnecessary, and even counterproductive, the passive voice often is.
I do admit that it comes in handy to avoid details that aren’t important, but I quickly began to see it as evasive. Let me give you an example.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino screwed up today. He had arranged to meet some veterans, and he showed up 70 minutes late. For more than an hour, they wondered if he was even going to show up. Of course the veterans were upset. Their concerns centered around the poor treatment they feel they’re getting from the federal government. According to the CBC news item titled, Veteran on Julian Fantino: ‘What the frig is wrong with that guy?’, this is part of the written apology he released later in the day:
Due to cabinet meeting that ran long, I was very late in meeting a group of veterans that had come to Ottawa to discuss their concerns. I sincerely apologize for how this was handled.
See what he did there? The last sentence is the typical passive voice politicians use to try to look less responsible. The situation was entirely his doing. He handled it poorly, and it was his cock-up. He should have said, “I sincerely apologize for how I handled this.”
My using a politician as an example is no accident. Their unending use of the passive voice to try to minimize their screw-ups is precisely why I started to see the use of passive language as evasive.