Tag Archives: passive voice

Passive Voice

I bet almost everyone has been scolded for using passive voice, either by a teacher, a writing buddy, or an editor. Software designed to help you improve your writing, like Grammarly or Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar check, often flags text as “passive voice” and encourages you to revise.

Great! Who doesn’t want to be a better writer?

The problem is that passive voice is misunderstood. So what do you need to know?

Basic sentence structure:

Noun (person, place, thing, idea) + Verb (action word)

or

Subject (noun) + Predicate (verb)

Active voice is when the subject is acting:

            The flamingo danced around the stage in high-stepping circles.

Passive voice is when the subject is acted upon:

            The flamingo was danced around the stage in high-stepping circles by the puppeteer.

 The context and my understanding of the scene completely changes based on these examples. In the active voice example, I’m guessing the flamingo is onstage at a zoo or a wildlife exhibit, or that this is a kids’ picture book about dancing flamingos. In the passive voice example, I realize the dancing flamingo is a puppet being manipulated by someone else.

Passive voice is about the author’s voice! That elusive, hard-to-define element that makes every writer unique.

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