Passive voice

More on Passive voice - avoiding is, am, are, was, were, be, being, been

Before we go into the details, let's review the grammatical constructs: subject and object.

Subject=doer, the person/place/thing (noun) who is doing the action

Object=receiver, the person/place/thing (noun) who receives the action

I read the book.

I=subject                           read=verb (in active form)                            the book=object

In this sentence the verb is active because the subject is present and accounted for and in the place to do the action indicated.

The book was read.

This is a passive voice construction in which the reader, or subject, is absent. Because it's missing, the object (the book being read) becomes the de facto subject. Confused? Try not to be. Here the reading is happening to the book, but it's impossible to tell by whom.

 

Use active voice whenever possible. Active voice verb constructions:

Eliminate wordiness and length. When a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Therefore, brevity is a by-product of vigor. Consider:

The mice were observed sleeping after the injection was administered.

Transformed to

After the injection, the mice slept.

 

Active voice can add power to your statements and clarity to your images.

Police cars screamed onto the scene.

Notes: the verb screamed is used as an active and descriptive verb.

Exude confidence. Consider the following transformation:

The reports were finished well before the deadline.

Becomes...

I finished the reports well before the deadline.

Notes: Now your boss knows whom to thank-you. You are not just taking credit, you are taking responsibility, and that shows confidence in your work and yourself. The verb and the clear subject (I) put emphasis on the doer, not the deed. Here, the subject is more important than the object.

Add clarity.

The book was read aloud.

Who is reading the book? And why aloud? What is the situation here? It's very hard to see. Try:

My teacher read the book aloud.

Notes: Now there is no doubt about who is doing what and why. Ah, clarity.

Active verbs will transform your writing once you get used to using them. At first, you might feel unnatural, but soon you will see how clear, strong, and undeniably vigorous all your writing becomes. Try it. It will help. I promise.