Richard Mitchell on agents and acts

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Sat Sep 24 16:59:54 EST 2005

Tom Wright wrote:
> If the sentence includes "by John," "by Sam," or "by the cloud," then
> yes, there is an agent.  Mitchell's point, however--and my point as it
> relates to technical journals--is that this kind of writing does cry
> out for some kind of formal fulfillment.
> One example I give elsewhere is "Younger individuals with
> nonosteopenic bone were treated with an Anatomic or Multilock
> uncemented stem."  It says they were treated--but it doesn't say who
> treated them.  The emphasis of the sentence is more on the
> technological solution than on the human agent that's not even
> mentioned.

But indication of an agent here would be mere padding. "The Agent" is
whatever M.D. out there reads the sentence and finds a way to treat
his/her patient. In other words, the agent is the reader, and what the
agent needs is the technological solution. When a writer carries this
technical style over to other contexts it becomes obnoxious and/or
deceptive. But in the proper context to jazz it up would be really


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