Editing for active voice

Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Passive: Including "to be" verbs is a way to make a sentence passive.
Active: A passive sentence includes "to be" verbs.

Passive: Sentences will be stronger if writers delete "to be" verbs.
Active: Authors who delete "to be" verbs write stronger sentences.

Passive: Forms of "to be" are: are, am, was, is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.
Active: Forms of "to be" include: are, am, was is, have been, has, will be, being, and will have been.

Passive: The girl was yelled at by her brother.
Active: The boy yelled at his sister.

Passive: The red tablecloth makes the celery stalks that are green look pretty.
Active: The green celery looks pretty on the red tablecloth.

Passive: The vest was worn without a shirt underneath.
Active: He wore a vest without a shirt underneath.

Passive: The funnel cake was eaten by a kid.
Active: The kid ate a funnel cake.

Passive: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing sentences that are unclear and repetitive.
Active: Overusing passive voice increases the chances of writing unclear and repetitive sentences.

Passive: Using active voice is a way to help clarify your written message.
Active: Active voice clarifies a written message.

Passive: Passive voice may be required in some scientific, medical, and technical writing.
Active: Scientific, medical, and technical writing may require passive voice.

Syntax and sentence order

Passive: To determine word order, the rules of syntax are necessary.
Active: Syntax determines word order.

Passive: English sentences are constructed using S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.
Active: English sentences follow S-V-O (subject, verb, object) word order.

Passive: O-V-S construction is passive.
Active: Passive construction uses O-V-S order.

Passive: The boat was driven by me. "The boat" = object, "was" = passive verb, "me" = subject.
Active: I drove the boat. "I" = subject, "drove" = verb, "boat" = object.

Passive: Maria was hated by Suzanne for many reasons.
Active: Suzanne hated Maria for many reasons.

Passive: Reducing the use of passive voice is one way to engage readers.
Active: Engage your reader by reducing passive voice.


Mary Horner struggles with active voice.
Active voice is a struggle for Mary Horner.


Nicole Pyles said...

This post was perfectly timed for me! I mean .... I read your post at the perfect time! Haha. I'm editing a short story and.... Darn that passive voice!!!

Mary Horner said...

That's hysterical, Nicole! I have the same issue, and use my posts to help work out my own issues!

Connie Koehler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Connie Koehler said...

Dear Mary Horner, thank you, so, kindly for sharing these helpful writing tips. I can use all the help I can get. Thank you, again.

Margo Dill said...

Mary: These are amazing. Love this idea you had for a post.

Mary Elizabeth Horner said...

Thanks, Artbyfaith and Margo! It took me a long time to get it right, and I'm still not sure it is completely correct, but I also don't know if I made it clear that some passive sentences are just fine the way they are. Today I finished reading "This Boy's Life," by Tobias Wolff, and he used them beautifully in several instances.

Pat Wahler said...

Great post and so true. Readers are more engaged by active sentences.

Mary Horner said...

Thanks, Pat. I agree.

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