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Writing and Editing Tips – Part 9: Active vs. Passive

Alison Williams Writing

active passive

When developing your writing craft, one of the ‘rules’ you will often hear is that you should avoid the passive voice. Using the active voice makes your writing simple, clear, concise and immediate, drawing your reader into the action of the piece and giving your writing energy. Using passive voice, on the other hand, can make your writing seem too formal, dull and wordy and can create a distance between the reader and the words. But many writers don’t really understand the difference between active and passive, and so are unsure how to write actively and how to avoid passive voice.

Passive

In passive sentences, the person/thing acted upon is the subject of the sentence, and the person/thing doing the action is usually included at the end of the sentence, for example:

The book was read by Sam.

The book is the subject receiving the action, ‘was read’ is the…

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