Monday, July 11, 2011

E.B. White was born.

From the “Book Bench” at the New Yorker:

E. B. White was born on this day in 1899. He’d not approve of that construction, I fear. Nor would Strunk. So how about, for colloquial clarity, if not quite temporal precision: today is E. B. White’s birthday.

Ian Crouch, E.B. White, on His Eighteenth Birthday
Was born: aha. The passive voice. Here is some of what The Elements of Style in fact says about it, under the the (in)famous heading “Use the active voice”:
The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive. . . . This rule does not, of course, mean that the writer should entirely discard the passive voice, which is frequently convenient and sometimes necessary.
Completely unobjectionable advice (accompanied, I should note, by several illustrative sentences). A writer who disapproves of was born is a writer whose ideas about language no one need take seriously. But neither Strunk nor White is that writer. Which is not to say that The Elements of Style is beyond criticism.

Related posts
All Strunk and White posts (via Pinboard)
The Elements of Style, one more time (Lots of criticism)
Zimmer on Strunk and White (on the “blanket rule” against the passive)

[The quoted passage appears in all editions of The Elements of Style.]

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