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The use of the passive voice and the imperative mood in instruction manuals
2001 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor)Student thesis
Abstract [en]

Technical texts are generally considered difficult to follow. The role of vocabulary and readability, related to LIX-figures and lexical density is discussed as possible reasons for difficulties in text comprehension. However, the main aim of the paper is to establish the occurrence of the passive voice in bi-lingual technical instructions and manuals for minor domestic appliances. Another reason is to investigate the use of the imperative mood. The results show that the imperative mood is used approximately three times as often as the passive voice in both English and Swedish manuals. The reasons for choosing the passive voice seem to vary. One reason could be politeness. The imperative mood can be regarded as too personal and/or condescending. Instead the use of a passive construction gives the text a sense of formality that often is considered as more polite. Another reason is when describing events taking place as a result of actions performed by the reader of the manual. A wish to stress the agent in those few cases where the agent is present, and topic, are other reasons for choosing the passive voice. Finally, organisational and personal preference can be mentioned as reasons for writing in the passive voice. In the literature of technical writing the advice given on choice of voice is not too extensive and recommendations are rather vague. In fact, it seems as if the imperative mood is the most favoured way of giving instructions by both writers of textbooks, as well as by actual writers of technical manuals.

Abstract [en]

Technical texts are generally considered difficult to follow. The role of vocabulary and readability, related to LIX-figures and lexical density is discussed as possible reasons for difficulties in text comprehension. However, the main aim of the paper is to establish the occurrence of the passive voice in bi-lingual technical instructions and manuals for minor domestic appliances. Another reason is to investigate the use of the imperative mood. The results show that the imperative mood is used approximately three times as often as the passive voice in both English and Swedish manuals. The reasons for choosing the passive voice seem to vary. One reason could be politeness. The imperative mood can be regarded as too personal and/or condescending. Instead the use of a passive construction gives the text a sense of formality that often is considered as more polite. Another reason is when describing events taking place as a result of actions performed by the reader of the manual. A wish to stress the agent in those few cases where the agent is present, and topic, are other reasons for choosing the passive voice. Finally, organisational and personal preference can be mentioned as reasons for writing in the passive voice. In the literature of technical writing the advice given on choice of voice is not too extensive and recommendations are rather vague. In fact, it seems as if the imperative mood is the most favoured way of giving instructions by both writers of textbooks, as well as by actual writers of technical manuals.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2001. , 25 p.
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-53673Local ID: ENG C-12OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-53673DiVA: diva2:1102233
Subject / course
English
Available from: 2017-05-29 Created: 2017-05-29

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Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf