Active / Passive Voice

“I hear you.”

Wouldn’t it be great to take time from having to write and speak correctly all the time? My dog loves me regardless of what I say, how I say it, or how often.

We all know that doesn’t fly in writing of any kind. For most of us, if we were to write how we speak, it would be a mess. It is best to write concisely and clearly so that people understand it. Intellectuals often write using a higher vocabulary. But are you achieving your goal if your audience must look up several words?

Another element in writing is using active and passive voice. It can seem a bit intimidating until you recognize the patterns and uses.

Use active voice when you want to show that the person or thing is taking the action. The person or thing responsible for the action comes first. It generally follows this pattern: subject, verb, object. Simply demonstrated:

Bruce owns Audio Recording Studio.

Bruce records musicians at Audio Recording Studio.

Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.

Use passive voice when time doesn’t matter, the performer or subject is unknown, or to emphasize the receiver. It flips the subject to the end. Pattern: object, verb, subject.

Audio Recording Studio is owned by Bruce.

Musicians are recorded at Audio Recording Studio. (passive does not need to mention Bruce)

The iPhone was launched by Steve Jobs in 2007. (or The iPhone was launched in 2007.) Again, omitting the person.

The active voice is most commonly used. Use it especially when you are writing to add impact.

There are appropriate reasons to use the passive voice. (as above in the middle sentence) Many medical, technical and white papers use the passive voice as to highlight the findings, not the subject.

The study found that 90 percent of the time, the rats were dehydrated.

“Errors were made.” – Politicians love that one.

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