Quit being passive: A grammar tip

If you reduce your use of the passive voice, your writing will become more powerful. That’s something I often tell my writing students.

If you can’t recognize the passive voice, check out the passive voice resources highlighted by Barbara Feldman in “Active and Passive Voice.”  Don’t be put off by the “Kids” in Feldman’s column title. She’s referring you to websites appropriate for adults.

According to the Guide to Grammar and Writing’s “The Passive Voice” page

In the active voice, the subject and verb relationship is straightforward: the subject is a be-er or a do-er and the verb moves the sentence along. In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (The new policy was approved).

In my opinion, the active voice has a couple of advantages compared to the passive voice

  • It shortens sentences
  • It clarifies the relationship between cause and effect

If you’re not sure you can recognize the passive voice, take the Guide to Grammar and Writing’s passive voice quiz, “Exercise in Revising Passive Constructions.” 

Some of the other resources mentioned by Feldman include

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