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November 28, 2006

The Passive Voice Revisited

Amazingly enough, only one of my students challenged his grade on the first paper. Although I had clearly indicated on the syllabus that students must make grade appeals in writing (explicitly stated to mean a hard copy turned in to my mail box along with the paper to be reconsidered), this student emailed me to ask if there was any way I could raise his grade. I replied that, because he had only answered the first part of the essay question, I couldn't give him anything higher than a B but that, if he had a good reason why he should have gotten a B rather than a B-, he should write a paragraph and turn it in to my mailbox along with the paper in question. After responding with the idiotic question of whether he could do this by email (the obvious answer: no, because I need to see the paper again), he did as I asked.

His grade appeal began with the statement, "I believe that while the second half of the question was not fully answered, my paper deserves a B." Upon reading this, I burst out laughing. He had turned in this paper right after my lesson about how the passive voice hides responsibility and agency. By using the passive voice in his grade appeal, this student made it sound as though the fact that "the second half of the question was not fully answered" had nothing to do with him. This construction reflects his unwillingness to take responsibility for his poor grade. To say "I didn't fully answer the second half of the question" would be unthinkable because it would mean admitting fault. This kid will probably be a ridiculously high-paid defense attorney someday.

Posted by eklanche at November 28, 2006 08:31 AM


See, a brilliant employment of the passive voice. I told you it was useful.

Posted by: dmerch at November 28, 2006 12:38 PM

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