Yesterday I offered two reasons for not using passive-voice sentences: They often omit useful information (who arrested the suspect and drove him or her to jail), and writers often forget that they have to use a past participle.
Almost immediately a police report with both errors turned up online.
On July 15, Bernard Tomic was arrested for refusing to turn down the music in a Miami hotel room. Tomic, 22, is a tennis star from Australia.
After two hours in jail, Tomic was released on $2,000 bail. He has apologized for his actions. You can read the story and see the police report at this link.
Here’s the first problematic passive-voice sentence in the Tomic police report:
Defendant was advise several times that if he did not pack his belongings and leave the premises he would be arrested for trespassing.
I see three problems here: First, the sentence should read “was advised” (the -ed ending is missing). Next, the sentence doesn’t tell which officer talked to Tomic – or whether both did the talking Finally, advise, which means counseled, is the wrong word. Since Tomic was about to be arrested, the report should use something stronger: told or warned.
Here’s the second problematic sentence:
Defendant was arrested and transported TGK.
In this sentence the report uses the -ed endings correctly (arrested and transported). But which officer performed those actions? That could be vital information if problems with the arrest or transport process show up later. (Remember the suspect who died in a Baltimore police van?)
Incidentally, TGK is the Turner Guildford Knight Correctional Centre.