It’s important to let the experts talk their talk. Good use of industry-standard language is important to the author’s credibility. “Every group expects its members to show that they accept its values by adopting its distinctive voice,” writes Joseph Williams’ Style.* But that doesn’t mean the writing has to be unintelligible to everyone else.
When to Allow Complexity
“Too often, though,” Williams continues, “aspiring professionals think they join the club only when they write in the club’s most complex technical language. It is an exclusionary style that erodes the trust a civil society depends on… A style should be as complex as necessary, but no more.”
When to Allow Passive Voice
“Many university-trained writers believe they must use only the passive voice or must never write in the first person. In fact, many journals today allow researchers to speak about their own work in the active voice and in the first person,” write the authors of the academic editing chapter in Editing Canadian English, 3rd ed., Lenore Heitkamp and Christa Bedwin.
When the passive voice is useful, Williams writes, it gives readers a coherent sequence of subjects. For example, By late 1920, the Snagglepus effect had been essentially defeated; all that remained was a tumultuous climax. The garden borders had been breached, and both properties to the sides and behind were being inundated by raccoons around the clock. No property, though, had been so devastated that if could not fight back.
When to Allow Sentence Fragments
Sentence fragments are a legitimate grammatical form. In formal writing, they are uncommon; in academic writing, “they’re considered a bit too casual,” Williams writes. Used intentionally (and sparingly), sentence fragments typically “are intended to reflect a mind at work, as if the writer were speaking to you … Almost as an afterthought, often ironically.”