The Most Passive Sentence of All Time

by Charmaine on March 25, 2009

Special approvals are required for the release of information to be presented in public forums, such as conferences or published in trade journals and the like, so that appropriate consideration may be given to whether information may be patentable and … intellectual property may be properly protected.


This is the Atlantis of passive sentences, the meaning obscured beneath an ocean of “are”s, “to”s, “may”s, and “be”s.

Plus, it’s not really easy to fix, unless you know who’s:

1. Requiring special approvals.

2. Presenting the information in public forums.

3. Giving appropriate consideration.

4. Patenting the information.

5. Properly protecting the intellectual property.

Let’s say that the answer to No. 2 is an employee (who is also the audience for this message) and that the answer to Nos. 1, 3, 4, and 5 is a law firm called Dewey, Cheatum & Howe (get it?). If I assigned responsibility for the actions described in the sentence, it would sound something like this:

If you’ll be speaking in a public forum such as a conference or publishing an article in a trade journal, Dewey, Cheatum & Howe requires that you obtain special approval before releasing the information. Our lawyers must consider whether your intellectual property needs a patent or other protective measures.

I did take a bit of liberty with this (and could go even further with the first person plural “we” instead of “our lawyers”), but I hope you’ll agree that it’s more clear.

I’m curious to see other attempts to active-ate the sentence. How would you fix it?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: