As we continue to learn about compositions, it’s plain to see that writing in the passive voice is a big no-no in most instances. Active voice is usually the way to go, adding clarity and precision to our words.
Here’s an example of passive voice: The dog was walked by Marie.
Here’s an example of active voice: Marie walked the dog.
See how the second example got straight to the point and minced no words?
Below, you’ll enjoy some active writing tips and a test to help you stay the course. In the tips section, it’ll be easy to see how the active voice clears up our writing and conveys a more concise and direct message.
Scanning your writing for any errant sentences written in the passive voice is a good habit to get into. These active writing tips and tricks will help you practice some healthy writing habits.
Most sentences in the English language use the active voice. In each of these sentences, the subject of the sentence performs the action. Here are two more examples:
The fish swam in the ocean.
She is riding her bike.
The passive voice is sometimes vague and awkward and changes the emphasis of the sentence to the person or thing receiving the action. Since there are more words involved, it can make our writing sluggish and confusing. Here are two more examples:
The cookies were made for the bake sale.
The road was paved by the construction crew.
Sometimes, people will use the passive voice to cover up who performed the action or to be vague on purpose. Examples include:
Rumors were spread.
Miscalculations were made.
To make sure you really nip the passive voice in the bud, feel free to read through these Examples of Active and Passive Voice.
Mystery writers will use the passive voice to draw attention to an object rather than the criminal, like “The secret plans were stolen.” Crime reports also use the passive voice because the perpetrator has not been caught, like “The store was robbed.”
Active sentences have more substance than passive ones. Using the active voice will make sentences flow better. If your writing is too wordy or seems to be unclear, you may need to change some passive sentences to active ones. Here are two examples:
Mary was kissed by Alan. – Alan kissed Mary.
The fly ball was caught by Wendy. – Wendy caught the fly ball.
Looking for a little more clarity? Check out YourDictionary’s Active vs. Passive Voice Infographic for an easy-to-understand explanation.
Here are some active writing tips to make your work easy to understand and coherent.
The active voice will give more impact to your writing. This is one of the most important of the active writing tips.
Change passive sentences to active ones to reduce the number of words and strengthen the tone of the work.
Remember that less is more. Overly complicated sentences, especially passive ones, will slow down the reader. Shorter, active sentences keep the flow going.
The active voice makes it look like you are observing the action; that things are happening. A passive voice makes it appear that people or objects are just waiting around for stuff to happen to them. The reader will be more engaged when the active voice is used.
Here is a little test to help you know if you understand the difference between active and passive voice. Change these sentences that have a passive voice to sentences with an active voice.
Italian pizza is eaten by many people.
My cattle are being fed by Grandpa.
Her new toy was broken by her brother.
Our Christmas tree was decorated by the whole family.
The snowman was melted by the warm sun.
The roads were covered by the heavy snow.
That movie was seen by millions of people.
The vault was broken into by a clever cat burglar.
Bombs were dropped over the island last night.
The chocolate cake was baked by my aunt.
Many people eat Italian pizza.
Grandpa is feeding my cattle.
Her brother broke her new toy.
The whole family decorated our Christmas tree.
The warm sun melted the snowman.
The heavy snow covered the roads.
Millions of people saw that movie.
A clever cat burglar broke into the vault.
Planes bombed the island last night.
My aunt baked the chocolate cake.