When downloading something on an application, I preferred the present continuous active voice form of the message, say something like "Downloading issue #16"

However I have been asked to change it into passive voice form "Issue #16 is being downloaded"

While I can't really point what is worse or better with the latter, my sensibilities strongly favor the former.

Can you point out which one is better, what would you prefer and why?

  • I think this is Not Constructive. It's like asking "What's the difference between six of one and half-a-dozen of the other?" – FumbleFingers Oct 4 '12 at 15:26
  • The question inherently concerns use of the passive voice vis-à-vis the active voice -- see the tags. – Kris Oct 4 '12 at 15:28
  • Can you say "Issue #16 is downloading" instead? It's still passive, but has one fewer word. – JLG Oct 4 '12 at 20:39
  • This question should not have been closed and is a valid concern regarding the difference between active and passive voice, not to mention elegance. Please don't overlook questions that are nuanced such as this. This is a prototypical example I'd use in a writing workshop on style. – Kevin Behan Jul 30 '15 at 18:08

Generally, the tendency is to advise avoiding the passive voice. (More advise than practice).

However, in your specific case, the operative thing is the objective being download -- the process of downloading itself being (presumably) already in context. "Issue #16 being downloaded" would be more user-friendly in that it begins with the most important part. You will need to omit the is -- it being a status message and not necessarily a complete sentence.

In case you are formatting the message as, say:
"Downloading Issue #16" (note the capitalization of 'Issue')
and probably constantly updating the issue number, then this format too would be fine.

  • 1
    I think you might be making unwarranted assumptions there. Sometimes it might indeed be that the particular [issue/file] being downloaded is the operative [most important] thing. Other times (when you're bothered about slow response times in some concurrent process sharing the data transfer pipeline), the most important thing might be the fact that a download is in progress. – FumbleFingers Oct 4 '12 at 15:25
  • Actually, it is based on decades of exposure rather than assumptions. – Kris Oct 4 '12 at 15:53
  • Exactly. I assuming "decades" means at least 20 years, and to be honest I don't think even in 1992 I ever had the benefit of a system that might be "downloading" more than one thing at any given time. Although today I've got a high-bandwidth cable connection, I'm normally using it for several things at once. If I was waiting for some vital transfer to finish so I can get on with important work, I wouldn't care which file some other process was fetching - I'd just want to de-priotitise or cancel the secondary download that was slowing my primary task. – FumbleFingers Oct 4 '12 at 16:17
  • FumbleFingers, answer the question with what you think is right. Let the op and the users upvote what they think is appropriate :) – Lakshman Prasad Oct 4 '12 at 20:17

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