When drafting a piece of writing, choosing the right voice to convey your message is important.
That’s why writers need to know the difference between active and passive voice.
Which of the above should it be?
In this blog post, we’ll explore the differences between active and passive voice with the help of use cases and discuss when each is most appropriate. We hope this information will help you select the right voice for your writing projects. Mastering the use of active voice is a key part of persuasive writing, so make sure you take your time with this article and let it sink in.
Active Vs. Passive Voice: What Are Their Differences?
When writing, there are two main ways to communicate your ideas: active and passive voice. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s essential to be aware of the differences between them so you can choose the one that will work best for your particular situation.
In active voice sentences, the subject performs the action. This construction is usually shorter and clearer than its passive counterpart because it puts the subject before the verb, making it clear who is performing what action.
In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb. This construction can make your writing sound weak or indecisive. It can also lead to confusion about who or what is responsible for the action.
Active vs. Passive Voice Comparisons
The table below shows a few examples of active vs. passive voice to distinguish the two clearly:
|Active Voice||Passive Voice|
|The driver stopped the car.||The car was stopped by the driver.|
|The doctor will see you now.||You will be seen by the doctor now.|
|The teacher called on Sarah to answer the question.||Sarah was called on by the teacher to answer the question.|
Common Reasons for Using Active Voice
Active voice is generally the preferred tone for writing and speaking as it makes the sentence more direct, shorter, and clear. There are certain instances when using active voice is always the better choice.
To Write Shorter Sentences
Active voice is often shorter and more straightforward than passive voice. Using the most concise language possible when writing or speaking is better. Using active voice can help you achieve this goal by eliminating unnecessary words.
Passive: The lamp was knocked over by a gust of wind.
Active: A gust of wind knocked over the lamp.
To Add a Tone of Authority
When writing or speaking, using an active voice can add a tone of authority. This is often seen in technical and persuasive writing, such as arguments or debates.
Passive: The course needs to be signed up by tomorrow.
Active: You will need to sign up for the course by tomorrow.
To Make Sentences Easier to Understand
Active voice is often easier to understand than passive voice. This is especially true for people learning English as a second language. It can also be helpful when writing about complex topics.
Passive: The door was opened by John.
Active: John opened the door.
Common Reasons for Using Passive Voice
Active voice is the preferred writing style in most cases, but some scenarios call for passive voice to highlight a particular cause instead of the subject.
To Emphasize The Action Rather Than The Actor
If you want to emphasize the action over the actor, you can use passive voice. This construction is often seen in scientific writing, as it allows for a clearer and more concise explanation of what happened without getting bogged down in who did what.
The patient was injected with a new experimental drug.
In this sentence, the focus is on the fact that the patient was injected with a new drug, not who did the injection. Using passive voice can be a helpful way to de-emphasize the actor in a sentence and keep the focus on the action.
To Avoid Naming The Actor
Passive voice can also be used when the actor is unknown or unimportant. In these cases, you can use passive voice to avoid identifying the actor.
My car was hit by a truck this morning.
In this sentence, we don’t need to know who hit the actor’s car, just that it was hit. Using passive voice can be a way to avoid naming an actor when it is not necessary.
To Create an Authoritative Tone
Passive voice can also create a more formal or authoritative voice. This is often seen in legal documents, where using passive voice helps create a sense of objectivity.
The verdict was read by the Judge.
In this sentence, the passive voice construction creates a sense of detachment and objectivity.
When Writing About a General Truth
Passive voice can also be used when writing about a general truth or fact. This is often seen in scientific, report, and factual writing, as it allows for a more concise explanation of a concept.
It has been proven that passive voice can be used to create a more formal tone.
In this sentence, the passive voice is used to state a general truth about the use of the passive voice.
Changing Passive Voice To Active
One of the most common writing mistakes is using passive voice. Passive voice occurs when the subject of a sentence is acted upon by the verb rather than performing the action itself. This often happens when writers try to sound more formal or “academic,” but there are certain do’s and don’ts for writing an academic tone. Passive voice can make your writing sound weak and unclear. It can also be challenging to read.
The good news is that passive voice is easy to fix. Just make sure that the subject of your sentence is performing the action. In other words, use an active voice.
Here’s an example of a sentence in passive voice:
The ball was thrown by the boy.
Here’s the same sentence in active voice:
The boy threw the ball.
See how much easier it is to read the active voice sentence? It’s also shorter and simpler. That’s because the active voice is more concise.
Active and passive voice are two writing styles that differ in delivery. Understanding the difference between the two will help you use them more efficiently for writing and speech. Although this may seem like an inconsequential part of writing, we consider it an essential tenet of becoming a talented content writer. To recap what we learned in this article:
- Active voice is when the subject performs the verb, and passive voice is when the verb acts upon the subject.
- Active voice is used to write shorter sentences, add a tone of authority, and make sentences easier to understand.
- Passive voice is used to emphasize the action rather than the actor, avoid naming the actor, create an authoritative tone, and when writing a general truth.
- Passive voice can easily be converted into active voice by making the subject perform the verb.