|Photo credit | Flickr: guy schmidt|
If you've ever taken a writing course, you've heard that you need to always use the active voice, not passive voice. Is passive voice really so bad that we should strike it from all our writing?
No, not all, but the passive voice is, well, weaker (in many instances) than the active voice. Active certainly brings the reader into the story. But, in my experience, a writer can get into caught up in a scene and write in passive voice until the characters are no longer actively participating. Sure, we can all be lulled into a rhythm of using the passive voice and its hard to snap out of it.
That's where I entered this passive-voice manuscript, knowing that some passive voice is acceptable, but too much can wear down the reader. I was only being asked to tweak the author's use of passive voice. So, I tried a approach you may want to try. On a second reading, I used the "Find" function of Microsoft Word and went to work.I spent several hours massaging a manuscript to use a more active voice.
I searched for the trigger words you might look for when rooting out the passive voice. Those words include:
- had, and so forth...
After I found the words that screamed PASSIVE VOICE, I read (and re-read) the sections. Then I started rewriting the sections. (Another common word in many passive sentences is "by." You may find that an easier word to search for.)
If you are wondering how much passive voice I cut, this may interest you. During a search of the manuscript, I found 1191 instances of "was" and after my second-pass edits, there were only 547 instances of the word.
Are you a passive voice or active voice writer? Or both? How do you find and edit your passive voice?
Elizabeth King Humphrey is a writer and editor. She strives to be more active, but right now is feeling a bit passive.