Finding your voice! Active Voice or Passive Voice?

This entry was posted in Book Review,Book writing,Editing,Essay writing,Fiction,Proofreading,Thoughts,Writing Tags: , , , , , , , , on October 21st, 2013 by

active-vs-passive-voiceIt often becomes difficult to understand the perfect voice for your writing, which will ultimately affect your presentation, readership and the final outcome. Microsoft Word usually marks out phrases written in passive voice, encouraging you to convert the sentence to active voice, but is it always necessary to use active voice? Well, not really! 

Before we get into discussing which voice is suitable in which situation, let’s learn a little about the difference between the two and their usage.

While using active sentence, the subject does the action mentioned in the verb. Here, the subject is given importance as it does the action and the direct object (if any) is the receiver of the action. For example Adam ate the apple. Here, Adam is the subject, who is doing the action, eating and apple is the object, receiver.

On the contrary, for passive voice, the subject (if any) is the receiver of the action and the object does the action mentioned in the verb. Here, despite being a receiver, the subject is given importance. For example, the apple was eaten by Adam. Here, apple is the subject, but it is not doing any action, while Adam is the object and the doer.

Active voice is direct, clear and concise and is preferred to make the writing more interesting and easy to read.

Is Passive always wrong?

Passive voice is not always wrong. For academic writing, or non-fiction manuscript writing, it is sometimes unavoidable to use passive voice, rather it is preferable in the following situations:

  • If the doer is unknown

Eg: The door was left open

  • If the doer is not important

Eg: The delivery was made in the morning

  •  If you do not want to name the doer

Eg: She was given inaccurate information

Although passive voice is sometimes unavoidable and preferable, overuse can lead to a flat narrative, resulting in loss of audience, especially if you are writing a fiction manuscript, be it a short story, a novella or a novel.

Imagine reading something like this: A lightning scar had adorned Harry’s forehead, since the accident. (Passive voice)

Now try reading this: Harry’s forehead had a lightning scar from the accident. (Active voice)

Since fiction believes in showing the action, rather than narrating it, active voice is always preferable.

Finally, use passive voice to give more importance to the action, rather than the subject; use active voice to show the subject in action or to voice your opinion in a clear and direct manner.

Contact Edit-A-Word today to know more about how we can help you find the perfect voice that suits your narrative and readership. Our specialist editors will bring in their years of experience to help you reach out to your target audience and achieve the most out of your piece of writing.


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