Imagine you won second place in a short-story contest. Pretty cool. But then you read the judge's thoughts on why, exactly, your story fell short: you used the verb “to be” in place of “active” sentences a little too often.
Some writers might take that as a legitimate criticism. Others might find it annoying and petty. But Caro Rolando should be outraged. The reason: Rolando's story, a submission in a Canada Writes story contest, contained not a single passive. Not one.
Instead, as linguistics professor and author Geoffrey Pullum speculated in a blog post at the Chronicle of Higher Education's website, contest judge, Vancouver fashion and art writer JJ Lee, is the victim of some bad information about passives spread by Strunk and White's “The Elements of Style.”