Active vs Passive

Pat Davids here.
Yikes, I missed my blog date. I was passive, not active. My bad.

Active vs Passive is easy to understand when we are talking about people but when it refers to the written sentence the meaning can be a bit murky.

What is passive voice? In most sentences there is a subject performing an action.
An example would be: John fired the gun.
"John" is the subject of the sentence. He performs an action.

In a passive sentence, the subject is acted upon rather than being the one performing the action. An example would be: The gun was fired by John.

Happily, my Word program throws a squiggly green line under sentences such as the one above to let me know I’m being passive.

Verbs in the passive voice have two parts: some form of the verb “to be” and a past participle form of the action verb. In my example: (was fired.)

You may choose to use the passive voice in order to emphasize one thing over another. In the second example, the gun (rather than John) becomes the most important component of the sentence.

Passive voice should be used sparingly–only when it can't be avoided. In most instances the passive construction is longer, clunkier, and more vague as you can see by the example above.The use of active voice over passive voice is often a matter of word economy and simplicity. If you can say something with fewer words, you probably should.

Make your words work for you. Active verbs push hard and passive verbs tug fitfully. Using an active verb helps make each sentence more vivid and precise.

Have I made it clear as mud?

Here is another example:
Active: Pat writes a blog.
Passive: A blog was written by Pat

Try your hand at an active vs passive sentence.

6 comments:

Roxann Delaney said...

Well done, Pat! Active/Passive writing is hard for most people to understand. I know it when I see it...sometimes. :) You did a great job of explaining so I can understand and maybe recognize it more often in my own writing.

Pat Davids said...

Rox, I depend heavily on the green squiggly lines from Word to warn me I'm on shakey ground.
Pat

Roxann Delaney said...

Gads!! I never notice those green squiggly lines. Maybe I should pay more attention?

(slapping forehead)

Reese Mobley said...

Good job, as always.

Reese was going to post a comment.
Reese posted a comment.
Reese was going to stop playing on the internet and get back to working on the manuscript.
Reese stopped playing and went back to work so Pat didn't kick her butt.

Pat Davids said...

Theresa,
I know you're working your fingers to the bone on that wonderful story. Happy revising.
Pat

Penny Rader said...

Great post, Pat. It took me a while to get the hang of active writing. Sometimes I still goof it up.