Active vs. Passive Voice

  • You've probably heard it from English teachers before--stop using passive voice!  Chances are you wondered, "Why?  What is passive voice?  Why does it matter?"

    To put it simply, passive voice takes much longer to write than active voice.  It's also less engaging.  Which sentence do you like better:

    Andrew threw the ball.

    The ball was thrown by Andrew.

    What about:

    Andrew threw the ball and Sarah caught it.

    The ball which was thrown by Andrew was caught by Sarah.

    It's almost confusing, isn't it?  The extra words dance around the meaning.

    How to fix passive voice:

    1. Who's performing the action?  The ball was thrown by Andrew.

    2.  Rewrite the sentence, placing Andrew as our subject.  Andrew threw the ball.

    A word of caution:  don't confuse passive voice with past tense.  In both sentences above, Andrew has already performed the action.  "Andrew will throw the ball" is not the same thing as "the ball was thrown by Andrew."