For many, high school years were some of the most formative and memorable—filled with both good and bad memories. Recently, one high school flashback pushed its way to consciousness during an operations review with a group of analysts, managers and executives.

My freshman and sophomore English instructor was an “old school” teacher. For weeks, he would drill the class on the parts of speech, noun-verb agreement, sentence diagrams and the horrors of dangling participles. He was a stickler for the use of active verbs as opposed to the passive tense; so much so that each week a class member was placed in front of the room and required to compose active and passive sentences, using the random subjects and verbs provided. If the classmate stumbled, students were encouraged to shout out the error. While certainly not a “participation” approach, by the end of the semester, everyone had English language fundamentals down pat. More important, everyone learned the underlying lesson - passive voice has its place but is routine, often unremarkable, and not meant to inspire or compel a response; active is vividly descriptive, commands attention, is motivational and (within some contexts) risky.

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