Is the below sentence weak?

He who can fool a customer should not be treated without disgust.

I have read in many manuals that using passive voice is weak in things like story and essays. ( Correct me if above sentence is not passive)

How should I rewrite it in active voice and why?

Any help is appretiated.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Drew, Glorfindel, user66974, NVZ, WS2 May 2 '17 at 17:45

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  • You could turn it around and say "Don't tolerate misleading sales techniques." Or "Don't tolerate employing misleading salespersons" . Is it weak ? It's awkward to me ... sounds like they're doing a Sun Tsu quote without the concise insight Sun Tsu has. ... or a proverb – Tom22 Apr 25 '17 at 21:34
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    Ignore such style guides. There's nothing ‘weak’ about passives. The generic advice to avoid the passive is rubbish. Use the passive wherever it makes sense to do so. (Also, please don't use code blocks for quotes—there's a blockquote function for that.) – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 25 '17 at 21:35
  • 'He who can fool a customer' has the default meaning 'He who is able to fool a customer' not 'He who has the gall to mislead a customer'. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 25 '17 at 23:03
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    I would say it is weak, but not because of the passive voice. It's the double negative that makes it hard to read. "He who can fool a customer should be treated with disgust." – Elby Cloud Apr 25 '17 at 23:46
  • @JanusBahsJacquet : I think you are correct. What do you mean by "block for quotes"? – Abhishek dot py Apr 26 '17 at 19:35

The learned members have already given you all the tips in the above comments, which I am simply combining to give you an answer:

There is nothing wrong with passive voice when used appropriately. So you can safely ignore the style guides that 'warn against' using it. However, what sounds proper in active voice can become 'weak' if needlessly twisted around into passive voice. So you can 'keep it simple' and go with active voice whenever feasible.

In fact your statement seems weakened not by passive voice but by the double negative in "should not be treated without disgust." Multiple negatives are always harder to process cognitively, and can confuse the reader into misinterpreting the meaning as "should not be treated with disgust" or "should be treated without disgust" which is the opposite of your message.

If you want to 'strengthen' the above sentence, you can avoid the double negative and simply write "should be treated with disgust", as the member rightly advised in the above comment.

Moreover, the 'can' in 'he who can fool a customer' contributes an element of ambiguity, so I would advise you to write "he who would fool a customer" (which means 'he who would not hesitate to fool a customer') or you could simply write "he who fools a customer," which is the strongest statement.

He who can fool a customer should be treated with disgust. (medium-strong)

He who would fool a customer should be treated with disgust. (stronger)

He who fools a customer should be treated with disgust.(strongest statement)

I am of course aware that 'he who fools a customer' does not have exactly the same meaning as 'he who can/would fool a customer', but it does help you to avoid ambiguity and (thereby) further strengthens your sentence!

  • Thanks. I agree with you. "what sounds proper in active voice can become 'weak' if needlessly twisted around into passive voice." This is exactly what should be mentioned in style books. The Double negative is a mistake, will remove it. – Abhishek dot py Apr 29 '17 at 7:25
  • @Abhishek.py You are welcome! Remember that the rules need not 'bind you' -- style books and grammar texts are there only to educate and guide you to better use the language for expressing your creative self. By strengthening your grammar and vocabulary (NOT JUST by studying textbooks but especially by READING A LOT) you will develop the knowledge, experience and confidence to eventually 'bend the rules' if required, to produce your best fiction. Also remember for your own encouragement: when it comes to creative writing, the highest skill with words is no substitute for an imaginative mind! – English Student Apr 29 '17 at 8:57

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