Active Voice vs Passive Voice

Hey Lovelies!

I hope that everyone has been having a good week so far, if not then I guess the weekend just can’t come soon enough, eh? Anyways, today we’re going to be talking about active and passive voice. This is a grammatical lesson essentially, but an important one. I have divided them up into their own sections.

Active Voice

Let’s start off with our definition:

Active voice: is a type of a clause or sentence in which a subject performs an action and expresses it through its representative verb.

Sentence structure: subject + verb + object

Simply put, the subject does the action of the verb and the object of the sentence receives that action. For example:

Pam is giving Michael advice.

Pam is the subject of the sentence she’s giving him something (the verb) and advice  is the object receiving the verb.

Reasons to use active voice:

  • It’s attention grabbing. The active voice is clear, direct, and interesting. It allows you to get straight to the point and engages your readers.
  • It’s precise. Passive voice can make a sentence feel clunky to read or say because you have to add more words to get your point across.
  • It’s to the point. Sentences in active voice are often shorter because they cut out the fluff and tighten your prose.

As a general rule of thumb, you’re going to want to use this style of writing.

Passive Voice

Let’s start off with our definition:

Passive voice: is a type of a clause or sentence in which an action (through a verb), or an object of a sentence, is emphasized rather than its subject.

Sentence structure: to be + a past participle

Simply put, the recipient of the action is the subject of the sentence or the nouns receiving the actions become the subjects of the sentence. For example:

Country music is sometimes hated.

In this case, the nouns receiving the actions are the subjects of these sentences. The focus of this subject isn’t on the opinion people have of country music, but it is focused on country music.

A lot of the time when we use passive voice our intended meaning gets skewed and the focus is not where it should be. It also doesn’t always feel natural to say or read. It lack the flow that active voice has and can often feel clunky when we read it. However, passive voice does has its uses in literature:

  • When you don’t know who did the action.
  • When the person who did the action is not important.
  • When the focus needs to be on the object, not the subject.

You will find that passive voice is used when the author doesn’t want you to know something or needs to redirect attention. So the mystery and thriller genres will use this type of voice more than you would see in a romance novel.

When used effectively, passive voice can be a great tool to add some intrigue to your writing. Just, like most things, don’t over use it to the point that your story loses it vivacity.

That’s it for me today! Our post next week will be about point of view. We’ll be defining that and looking at the different ways we can use it to our advantage. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Until next week!




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Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams

Danielle Adams is a writer and editor for a local marketing agency. She has formerly worked as a writer for the Investing News Network and as an editor for Whetstone, a bi-annually published literary magazine. Aside from writing, Danielle has an unabiding love for all marine life and the outdoors. She loves taking long hikes with her husband and cooking delicious meals in the kitchen.


5 Responses

  1. This is an excellent point. Passive voice is a trap one can fall into when just trying to write narration (I’m using it right now, aren’t I?)
    When we write a sentence, we have to keep the reader engaged, by letting them live the story through the character’s point of view. Therefore, the character DOES the action. It’s a matter of “Pamela took the rocky trail,” so the reader can anticipate what Pamela found at the end of that trail, as if they were walking it themselves.
    If they read “The rocky trail was taken by Pamela,” then the trail has just become the dominant factor in the perceptions, and the story has stopped coming to life by what the reader experiences through Pamela’s point of view.

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