Have you ever reviewed your paper and shuddered at the unclearness of it all? Now, if the piece seems muddled to you, imagine how it reads to your audience. Lack of clarity usually stems from passive voice misuse and other grammar issues.
One thing’s for sure; you can’t let these mistakes litter your paper. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use online passive voice checkers to supplement the self-editing process. It also helps get you on your editor’s good side, which is something we all want.
Today, we’ll sift through the ways to identify active and passive sentences so that you’ll know what works best for your writing.
Comparing the Active and Passive Voice
A sentence where the subject acts upon the verb uses the active form. However, if it addresses the action prior to the subject, then it’s in the passive voice. Writers are often taught that the passive voice leads to weak writing, but that’s not entirely true. When used appropriately and sparingly, the passive voice can work.
As for the active voice, most articles on writing advice will tell you this is the tone of voice to go for when telling a story. The active form allows most writers to deliver descriptive and emotive sentences that capture their readers’ attention.
The Differences Between Active and Passive
How do these two grammatical voices differ?
If a sentence’s subject is the doer of the action, you can say that it is in the active form. These sentences have a clear and convincing tone that leaves no doubt as to the writer’s intended meaning.
A sentence in the active voice follows this arrangement: subject-verb-object. Basically, the subject performs something (verb) to the object. It’s all very straightforward and easy to understand, which is what most readers look for in their reading material.
Conversely, it’s the action or verb that gets put in the limelight in a passive sentence. So, a sentence reads such that the subject is merely the recipient of the verb’s action—a complete reversal of roles.
Passive voice construction involves the conjugation of “to be” plus the past participle of the verb. This formation also tends to result in a preposition. This may all sound complex, but it’s actually pretty easy. For all the nasty talk surrounding the passive voice, it certainly doesn’t apply to its detectability. Trained enough eyes can spot these errors a mile away.
Active and Passive Voice Usage
The active voice lets you deliver a strong, clear message, while the passive voice makes your work seem weak and unconvincing. So, just because you see the passive form feature in fancier writing doesn't mean it's how you should present your sentences.
That said, the passive voice isn’t completely off-limits. In fact, there are times when it may be necessary to your brand of storytelling. A good general rule is to use the active voice when constructing your sentences unless you can’t. In that case, you can use the passive voice.
Changing Passive Voice To Active Voice
How do you expect readers to take your work seriously when some of its parts sound so unsure? That’s what the passive voice can do to your sentences. It doesn’t necessarily make the sentences incorrect, but it can turn them bland and untrustworthy. It also makes them seem evasive, which is the last thing you want to come across to your audience.
Writing that doesn’t fully convey the side of the writer hardly impresses. More than that, it doesn’t do much to convince the audience to take action. That’s what can happen when you let the passive voice creep into your writing.
So, change your sentence to active voice. Instead of the verb, let the subject be the first thing the sentence addresses. In this new sentence structure, your subject should now act upon the verb and not be on the receiving end of its action.
When Is It Okay To Use the Passive Voice?
Why all this flak behind passive voice usage when it’s not even completely off-limits? In fact, as discussed, there are a couple of scenarios where using this tone of voice is fine.
One of these instances is when your brand of storytelling calls for the sentence to be written in the passive voice. It might also be because the passive form is the best way to convey your message. Then, there are times when the active voice isn’t applicable, in which case the passive voice is acceptable to use.
Notes on the Passive Voice
If the passive voice isn’t the best way to say something, don’t use it. Remember, it can turn an otherwise simple statement into a complex and awkward one when used incorrectly. It can also remove pertinent details from your sentence without grammatical error, misleading you into thinking the sentence is fine.