Use the Passive Voice Correctly

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Books upon books of writing advice and semester after semester of writing class have taught most of us one thing about the passive voice: always replace them with the active form whenever possible. It is for good reason, too.

Passive voice is typically a feature of childish expression. That is because children tend to perceive of themselves as objects of action, rather than the subject. As such, the age-old advice of applying the active form of verbs, rather than their passive versions.

Whenever we use the passive voice, we tend to feel like we are doing something wrong. While the active form does make sense most of the time, the passive form can be just as valid. In fact, there is no rule in the English language that says you have to use the passive form of verbs all the time. Even your writing software, in fact, won’t fault you for it.

Truth is, the passive voice is just as valid a way of expressing your thoughts. In some instances, in fact, it is an even better pick than using the active form of verbs.

  • Sentences that contain multiple active verbs usually require naming each of the agents of the verb. That leads to convoluted text that reads very, very awkwardly.
  • Some agents can be better emphasized when using the passive voice.
  • Sentences that accuse someone indirectly are best written in passive form and is an essential technique in journalism. There’s almost no way to be indirect with the active voice.

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