All good writing advice says to use the active voice instead of the passive. I couldn't agree more - indeed, as I have recently blogged, I believe it can be the first step toward personal and organisational transformation.
So I am always very curious to find the odd instance where the passive is just more appropriate.
At Norwich railway station this morning there were apology notices up on the timing boards regarding the disruption to the Colchester service yesterday, as 'someone was killed on the track.'
It's already quite direct language, and given the subject and the potential effect of this message on passengers, there might be a case for a bit of softening - maybe 'There was a fatality on the line.' (Notice though the de-humanising effect of calling them a 'fatality' instead of 'someone.')
How much worse would the active voice make it though? To step up and take ownership - which is what using the active voice is about - would make a message like 'We killed somebody on the track.'
Sometimes there is a case for using the passive. Incidentally, it is always interesting to see how little compassion there is amongst passengers when there is a fatality. Usually there is someone in the crowd who will comment about how the victim should've chosen a better time, that it's really insensitive to kill yourself during the commuters' morning/evening rush.