It Will be a Cold Day in Hell Before I Use the Passive Voice

In the spring of 1993 I was working a nightshift at the Pickering nuclear power station. The shifts were 12 hours, broken into two-hour segments and to stay fresh, we did two hours on, two hours off.

One off time was for lunch, but that left four idle hours to fill, and to fill it the guys brought a tiny black and white TV into the crew trailer.

13 Years

I found myself watching hockey for the first time in 13 years.

Back in the 70s, I was a hockey fan. I could recite the names, number and positions of every member of my team. I collected and traded their cards. I may have had my favourites, and guys I didn’t care about, but they were my guys, on my team.

Just like any other true fan.

Then came December 1979 when the team’s GM got into a pissing match with the captain. To get one over on him, he traded his best friend (who happened to be my all-time favourite player) and I stopped watching hockey for 13 years.

 I didn’t just stop watching my team, I stopped watching the game. At every, level.

The Announcers

Over those years, the announcers changed. The legendary Foster Hewitt gave way to his son Bill, whose retirement resulted in the execrable Bob Cole taking over.

Bob f’ing Cole, with his dull, nasal drone:

  • Getting the players’ names wrong, or
  • Flat out calling out the wrong players’ names, while he was
  • 15 seconds behind the play, or
  • Incorrectly predicting the play rather than simply describing it (his actual job), or
  • Telling us what the player was thinking (nice mind reading Bob), or
  • Telling us the time remaining in the period (with the time clock visible on the TV screen), seriously Bob, I’ve been to kindergarten, I know how to tell time, or
  • Calling out the shift changes, rather than the actual play with the puck, or
  • Filling the air with meaningless drivel like, “They’d really like to score one here.” No shit Bob, a hockey team wants to score. Thanks for the insight, genius.

For reasons unbeknownst to the wit of man, there are people who reminisce about this idiot. Seriously, I will never be able to understand the nostalgia for the senile drunk.

Everything is happening.

Bob Cole.

Seriously, this is a genuine Bob Cole quote. He. Got. Paid. For. This. This actually is how he described the in-ice action.

Everything is happening.

I’m not lying. Look here, if you dare.

Good Lord, they put this moron in the Hockey Hall of Fame, broadcasters category, while people with functioning brains (like me), and a command of the English language (also like me)  had to mute the TV and listen to the game on the radio.

But I digress.

The Passive Voice

“And the puck was stopped by the right pad of Shesterkin.”

The New York Rangers play-by-play guy. Probably.

This is not a real quote, I made it up, but it is typical of the way that the semi-literates who get paid to say words describing on-ice action, talk.

On the rare occasions I watch hockey the announcers constantly assault my delicate sensibilities with the passive voice. Or, should I say, “My delicate sensibilities are constantly assaulted by the announcers’ use of the passive voice.

Do you see the difference between those sentences? Is the second one not genuinely, awesomely, painfully stupid?

Yes, it is.

Thus, would the fake quote not sound better:

And Shesterkin stops the puck, with his right pad.


Yes, it would.

It doesn’t just sound better, it objectively is better. The first sentence says the pad stopped the puck. I guess the goalie was just…there. Really? The goalie pad has agency, it can stop a puck, all on its own?


The second sentence actually depicts the event; the goalie stopped the puck. His pad was just a tool.

Given that this is a writing blog, let’s bring it around to George Orwell’s six rules for clear writing.

Rule 4:

Never use the passive voice where you can use the active.

Leave aside how nerve gratingly obnoxious the passive voice is. It’s bad writing, which makes it bad communication.

So, for the love of God, please, stop using it.