The Active Voice vs. The Passive Voice

3:01 PM


Did you know that there are two different voices to use when it comes to writing?

Sentences have a subject and a verb and usually an object. But there are two kinds of verbs, active and passive.

When a verb is active, the subject is doing the action. When the verb is passive, something is being done to the subject.

A simple example of the active voice would be:

Mike drove the car.

Here is the same example using the passive voice:

The car was driven by Mike.

The active voice is more direct. While the passive voice draws out the sentence. And the fewer words you use, the tighter your writing will be.

In his memoir on writing, Stephen King tells us how much he hates the passive voice. But he is willing to speculate on why so many writers are attracted to it. He says, "I think timid writers like them for the same reason timid lovers love passive partners. The passive voice is safe. There is no troublesome action to contend with; the subject just has to close it's eyes and think of England, to paraphrase Queen Victoria. I think that unsure writers also feel the passive voice somehow lends their work authority, perhaps even a quality of majesty. If you find instruction manuals and lawyer's torts majestic, I guess it does."

I had no idea ideas like active and passive words existed until recently, but now, everywhere I look I see them in use. And I have to say, choosing to use an active voice really does make a world of difference. 

What do you think?


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