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Subject: Passive voice verb phrases

On Mon, Feb 23, 2009 at 12:54 AM, Alex Brown <alexb@griffinbrown.co.uk> wrote:

> I think what the author intended here was "whitespace characters in elements DECLARED TO HAVE ONLY element content are ignored".

Laying aside the merits of the comment, this should be rephrased in
active voice using requirement keywords.

Passive voice clauses stating no requirements are a major problem in
the committee draft. E.g., according to Grammatik, 5,404 verb phrases
in the specification are passive voice, a full 25 per cent of the
total. Forms of the verb "to be" do not combine in the same clause
with ISO/IEC Directives Part 2 Annex H requirement keywords.

The spec is riddled with clauses that should be stated in active voice
using requirement keywords. Instead, they only make passive voice
statements, are informational only.

See e.g., the language in section1.3 Namespaces:

"The namespaces used or defined by OpenDocument are listed in tables 1-4.

"Note: XML namespaces are defined by the Namespaces in XML
specification [xml-names]."

The entire section states no requirements and is therefore
informational only. Likewise for section 1.5 (white space handling)
and many others.

One guiding light is the JTC 1 Directives requirement that
international standards are to "clearly and unambiguously specify the
conformity requirements essential to achieve the interoperability.
Complexity and the number of options should be kept to a minimum[.]"

ISO/IEC JTC 1 Directives, (5th Ed., v. 3.0, 5 April 2007) pg. 145
(PDF), <http://www.jtc1sc34.org/repository/0856rev.pdf>; see also ibid
pg. 11 (standards which are developed shall reflect the requirements
of the following Common Strategic Characteristics: ...

So "shall" and "shall not" rather than passive voice verb phrases
wherever "essential to achieve the interoperability." Options should
be clearly identified as such using "may" clauses and should be
eliminated wherever "essential to achieve the interoperability."

A competent grammar checking program would undoubtedly assist in the
necessary rewrite by identifying passive voice verb phrases. But note
that currently available grammar checking software is far from
infallible. <http://www.camsoftpartners.co.uk/euro96b.htm>.

Best regards,

Paul E. (Marbux) Merrell, J.D.

Universal Interoperability Council

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