Active vs. Passive Voice

60 Second Advice by Anne Brees

Any writing blog you go to will tell you to eliminate passive voice to improve your writing. However, a lot of them fail to tell you how to identify  and eliminate passive sentences.

A passive sentence has a subject that isn’t doing the action of the verb. The verb is ‘acting upon’ the subject. Here’s an example below.

The grass was eaten by the horse.

See how the grass isn’t doing the action? The horse is eating, not the grass. So to change it into active, simply make it so that noun doing the action is the subject of the sentence.

The horse ate the grass.

See how much smoother and simpler that sentence is? In most cases, switching the nouns in the sentence and changing the verb to match the new subject will give you an active sentence. Let’s try another one.

The ball was kicked by Timothy. 

Timothy is doing the action, not the ball, so let’s switch the nouns.

Timothy  kicked the ball.

You don’t have to worry too much about writing in active voice on your first draft, but be sure to catch it in your edits.  Writing in active voice will make your prose smoother, more concise, and more professional.


Do you tend to use passive or active voice in your writing?



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