Understanding the difference between the "Active": and "Passive" voice

TranquilpenStarred Page By Tranquilpen, 28th Nov 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/7mwq8k0u/
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Tips

As budding writers, we often get caught up in a grammatical quagmire while trying to decide between the "Active": and "Passive" voice when writing copy. The rule of thumb, is that the active voice is always better...

The Subject Is Doing The Action

When we are using the "Active" voice, it simply means having the subject of the sentence do all the acting. For example: Richard fitted two separate speakers, so the sound could be alternated between the dining-room and the patio. In this sentence "Richard" is being the subject, The action he performed is “fitted” and “speakers” is the object in the sentence, describing what Richard has fitted. Another example would be: Paul hit a home run the second time at bat. In this sentence "Paul", the subject, did the "hit", the action.

Using The ":Active" Voice

When we use the "Passive" voice, the subject of the sentence is not acting. A plain example: The door is being closed by me. In this scenario, the "door" is the subject but the action “closed” is being done by me. While this sentence is grammatically correct, it is difficult for most average people to understand. Regardless of who your targeted audience is, making use of the "Active" voice is always better. Most grammar-checkers can be set to highlight sentences using the "Passive" voice.

When To Use The "Passive" Voice

There certainly are times when a writer has to use the passive voice. These instances, will be, for example, when the writer does not know who or what is doing or did the action. For instance, a crime journalist may write that the woman's dead body was found around 2 am., Saturday morning. The writer does not know how the woman had died, all he knows is that she was found on Saturday morning around 2 am. The rule is not to use the "Passive" voice unless it is categorically unavoidable.

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Comments

author avatar Buzz
28th Nov 2012 (#)

I always use the active voice unless the object of the verb is preferred as subject of the sentence.:-) Great to see you back, dear friend.

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
28th Nov 2012 (#)

Thanks for the nice tips, TP. Good to remember the basics lest we overlook - siva

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author avatar Peter B. Giblett
28th Nov 2012 (#)

One of the best descriptions of active and passive voice I have seen. It is all too easy to speak in passive voice when you are writing business documents, because you are trying to state facts alone, which can make some business writing very dry indeed.

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author avatar Tranquilpen
16th Apr 2014 (#)

Trying desperately to catch up on valuable feedback such as yours. Thank you again for making my day Peter.

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author avatar Kalimadran
28th Nov 2012 (#)

Wow I honestly I have never heard of this I just write, hard to explain I write what pops into my head but if this will get me more followers I'm always open to learn. Could I ask a favor from you would you mind reading some of my stuff to see if I am using a active voice verses passive voice kinda like a proof read cause I kinda grasp the concept but not sure yet. Here is a link.To my pages.Thank you I hope you don't mind

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author avatar M G Singh
2nd Jan 2013 (#)

An excellent lesson on grammar. Very educative

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author avatar MarilynDavisatTIERS
1st Oct 2013 (#)

Good Evening, Tranquilpen. Seconding an earlier comment, I apprecaite this well written article. ~Marilyn

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author avatar Tranquilpen
1st Oct 2013 (#)

Hello Marilyn, thank you so much for reading this article

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