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Active vs. passive voice

Posted by Maria Murnane | October 19, 2015

If you’ve never heard of “active voice” or “passive voice,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, while you might not know the official terminology, I’m willing to bet you can easily spot the difference between the two.

In the active voice, the subject of the sentence is doing the acting. For example:

  • I am writing this blog post.
  • You are reading this blog post.
  • They are enjoying that book.

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is being acted on by the verb:

  • This blog post is being written by me.
  • This blog post is being read by you.
  • That book is being enjoyed by them.

While active voice is strong and clear, passive voice is somewhat watered down…and a bit weak.

It’s fine to use passive voice now and again, but the problem with using it too often is that it can bore - and potentially frustrate - your audience. Passive voice can also leave readers with unanswered questions if certain information isn’t provided. For example:

  • The man was seen on the street early in the morning, and it was reported that he was up to no good. (Who saw the man? Who reported that he was up to no good?)

Still confused? Here’s the first paragraph of this post again.

If you’ve never heard of “active voice” or “passive voice,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, while you might not know the official terminology, I’m willing to bet you can easily spot the difference between the two.

Now here it is rewritten in the passive voice:

If “active voice” or “passive voice” has never been heard of by you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. However, while the official terminology might not be known by you, I’m willing to bet that the difference between the two can easily be spotted by you.

See the difference? Think active = strong and passive = weak. Who doesn’t want to be strong?

-Maria

 

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2015 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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