Editors (and critics) of my writing often mention the importance of using the active voice rather than the passive voice. I thought of this as I read the newspaper account of an interview concerning the Stacey Burns murder case when I visited New Hampshire recently. Toward the end of that article, a potential prosecutor (should there ever be an arrest and trial) states that he cannot comment publicly on the case because it is still active. The comment sent me to my trusty Webster’s New World Dictionary to search for a definition of active that may fit in this context.

All seven of the definitions would have fit perfectly in the first few weeks, or months, or even a couple of years of the investigation into Stacey’s brutal killing.  Words such as functioning, working, causing action or motion, lively, busy, etc. could certainly be used to define what was happening after May 10, 2009 as the search for a cold-blooded, cowardly killer began.

My question is not a new one, as I’ve mentioned it in previous blogs but here it is again, directed at the prosecutor. Which of the definitions of active are you using in your statement to a concerned and vitally interested public? It is not possible, is it, that this investigation in May, 2013, would fit more readily into the definition of the passive voice? Words such as inactive, inert, yielding, patient, offering no opposition, etc. come to mind.

Just wondering what “active” is?