Colo. Gunman Shoots Hostage, Kills Self

“It was then decided that a tactical solution needed to be done in an effort to save the two hostages,” the sheriff said, his voice breaking. “Entry was made. The suspect shot one of the hostages, then shot himself.” —Chase SquiresColo. Gunman Shoots Hostage, Kills Self (ABC News)

Fascinating example of the usefulness of the passive voice and nominalization. The sheriff is distancing himself from the action.

The suspect is an active, immediate threat, who “shot” a hostage and “shot” himself.

The authorities in charge of the operation are in the background… the “solution needed to be done” and the course of action was “decided on”. Rather than saying the “Police officers stormed the building, waving guns and screaming for the suspect to come out,” the sherrif simply says “Entry was made.”

I don’t mean to say the sheriff was doing anything wrong… it just struck me how effectively he was using language. The most powerful verb in his whole speech was “save [the two hostages]” — the intention that motivated the action.

The detail about the breaking voice shows that this cop was talking his professionally abstract passive rhetoric in an effort to keep his emotions under control.

Good reporting — painting a compelling picture with a few telling details.