My father-in-law Sherdian Bosch oversees massive construction jobs.
I construct long sentences.
So he and I are construction managers, I like to think. From one construction manager to the other, Sherdian wrote me awhile ago, looking for advice:
I do a good bit of technical writing and I like to come across in a strong and concise manner. But this damn Word program keeps underlining certain phrases in green and it bugs me because when I click these phrases it says “passive voice, consider revising”. For some reason that PMO because who the hell do they think they are saying I am passive? Especially when I don’t even understand what they are talking about. So … I’m asking the professional, what the H are they talking about? Maybe if I understand it I can ignore it.
He provided an example of a piece of writing Word flagged as passive:
As defined in the base facility concept, EDG will prepare a performance specification for the design and supply of two 250 MT welded steel storage tanks that will be provided fully assembled and ready to be placed into the load-out structure. Deliverable size, cost and constructability are also being studied and a final concept will be submitted for consideration as details are developed.
All it means is that there is no subject in the sentences. No acting people or entities.
If I were to write those sentences in the active voice (vs. the passive), I would say,
As defined in the base facility concept, EDG will prepare a performance specification for the design and supply of two 250 MT welded steel storage tanks that we'll provide fully assembled and ready to be placed into the load-out structure. EDG engineers are also studying deliverable size, cost and constructability and will submit a final concept for consideration as details are developed.
Passive voice just means you're kind of hiding the acting agent in the action, which gets tiresome to read after awhile because people like to read about people and not processes. Also, institutional writers often use this structure to hide blame.
"Mistakes were made," instead of "We fucked up."
I'd avoid passive voice whenever you can just as easily specify who is doing the thing. In this example, your first sentence is fine as-is, but I'd probably change the second one to specify who is doing all that studying.
In neither case is the passive voice the end of the world. But a whole document full of sentences without subjects reads like a ghost town.
"Wow, much bigger deal than I thought," Sherdian replied. "Thanks, I'll change my ways."
A couple of months later, he reports, "I've been trying very hard … and now that you mention it, I have not been dinged by the Program for some time. Wow, you're a great teacher!"
By such small victories, one is gratified.