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Passive vs Active: the good, the bad, and the awkward Options · View
Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Saturday, July 29, 2017 11:55:50 AM

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The subject of 'passive vs active voice' confuses most writers and worries even more. So thought a brief 'down and dirty' on the subject might somehow be of some benefit to some of us.

What follows is excerpted from the highly recommended 'Grammar Girl' site.

Don't hesitate to add your own comments.

glasses8

xxx

What is active voice?

In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. A straightforward example is the sentence "Steve loves Amy." Steve is the subject, and he is doing the action: he loves Amy, the object of the sentence.

What Is Passive Voice?

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. Instead of saying, "Steve loves Amy," I would say, "Amy is loved by Steve." The subject of the sentence becomes Amy, but she isn't doing anything. Rather, she is just the recipient of Steve's love. The focus of the sentence has changed from Steve to Amy.


Passive voice isn't wrong, but it's often a poor way to present your thoughts.

Another important point is that passive sentences aren't incorrect; it’s just that they often aren't the best way to phrase your thoughts. Sometimes passive voice is awkward and other times it’s vague. Also, passive voice is usually wordy, so you can tighten your writing if you replace passive sentences with active sentence.


Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwords.[/ - ROBERT HEINLEIN

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OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

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elizabethblack
Posted: Saturday, July 29, 2017 8:36:27 PM

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Joined: 1/12/2014
Posts: 1,128
Thank you for this and the reminder of "Grammar Girl". Let me see......Elizabeth loves Rump. Not Rump is loved by Elizabeth (not that there is anything wrong with that).


Kavyansh
Posted: Sunday, July 30, 2017 1:06:02 PM

Rank: Forum Guru

Joined: 8/25/2016
Posts: 708
As a scientific writer I was always instructed to write in the passive voice as if that was more objective and impartial than the first person active voice. Perhaps that is why scientific papers seem so dry and boring when in fact they are often exciting. This was not always the case and some of the most interesting scientific writing of the 18th century was written in the active voice. I believe it is time for scientists to rebel against the restrictions imposed by well meaning pedants. You never know all those arts scholars among our small fellowship here on SS might be persuaded that we scientists are fun people to be with, and even moderately passable writers.

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Hebrews 4:12
Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Thursday, August 3, 2017 2:05:48 PM

Rank: Story Moderator
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Location: lost in the ozone west of Apache Junction
Keith, a fellow can dream. ;)

Ms E, Grammar Girl was a great site. I'm glad she has left it up for the rest of us.

glasses8

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwords.[/ - ROBERT HEINLEIN

Schemers Scheme -- young women talking about young men

OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

For Whom the Good Tolls an 'RR' and it's short, no kidding

Mendalla
Posted: Friday, August 4, 2017 7:13:47 AM

Rank: Forum Facilitator

Joined: 4/23/2014
Posts: 439
Location: Somewhere amongst the trees
KindOfHeart wrote:
As a scientific writer I was always instructed to write in the passive voice as if that was more objective and impartial than the first person active voice. Perhaps that is why scientific papers seem so dry and boring when in fact they are often exciting. This was not always the case and some of the most interesting scientific writing of the 18th century was written in the active voice. I believe it is time for scientists to rebel against the restrictions imposed by well meaning pedants. You never know all those arts scholars among our small fellowship here on SS might be persuaded that we scientists are fun people to be with, and even moderately passable writers.


Thing is, the scientists who step outside that paradigm to write for a popular audience often do use active voice very well (Sagan, Tyson, etc.). So it's not like it's been beaten out of you, just suppressed. Let loose your inner writer!!


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Mendalla
Posted: Friday, August 4, 2017 7:15:18 AM

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On topic: passive voice has its place, but I can't think of too many places in fiction where it's more effective than active. I probably will as soon as I hit Post, but I can't think of any right now.

Featured Story:
Night of the Wind - (Fantasy) A mysterious traveller, a strange storm, a chaotic night for a small town.

Other works:
Spooky People - (Poetry) A playful verse for Hallowe'en.
On Seeing the Light (Re)born - (Poetry) A reflection on seeing the sun rise while on vacation
Voice of Ice - (Horror) A powerful winter storm leads a professor to a disturbing discovery
Rumple_deWriter
Posted: Tuesday, December 5, 2017 12:43:19 AM

Rank: Story Moderator
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Joined: 8/24/2011
Posts: 451
Location: lost in the ozone west of Apache Junction
bump

Why? Because, imo, there's still a lot of passive prose in Story Space submissions and in the world...that and total hubris. ;)

glasses8

Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwords.[/ - ROBERT HEINLEIN

Schemers Scheme -- young women talking about young men

OF WAR, AND PEACE, AND MARY BETH: my contest winner, honest

For Whom the Good Tolls an 'RR' and it's short, no kidding

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