Answered By: Rachel Willard Last Updated: May 02, 2017 Views: 708
To avoid passive voice, you must be direct and precise in your verb choices. Passive voice is a verb form that creates a sense of indirect action in a sentence and often conceals the subject of a sentence. Thus, the subject may or may not be clear in sentence.
While it is not wrong, using passive voice can make your writing seem vague. There are a few indicators of passive voice that you can look for in your writing:
- Any form of the word to be. The words am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been come before the verb in passive voice form.
- The –en form of the verb. An –en verb form is an indication of passive construction. Some verbs don’t take an –en ending and use –ed instead.
- A by phrase. If the subject is included in the passive voice sentence, it is in a by phrase.
Once you have identified passive voice in your writing, try separating the subject. Ask yourself who or what is doing the action. Then, make that person or thing the subject of the sentence by moving it to the first place in the sentence. See a few examples below.
- Passive with was, -ed ending, and by phrase: The research was completed by the student.
- Who or what did the action? The student.
- Revision: The student completed the research.
- Passive with were, -en ending, and by phrase: The pizzas were eaten by the hungry children.
- Who or what did the action? The hungry children.
- Revision: The hungry children ate the pizzas.
- Passive with missing subject: The cookie was taken.
- Who or what did the action? The reader does not know, so you may need to make up a subject.
- Revision: The child took the cookie. The teacher took the cookie.
- View the blog post "The Hunt for Passive Voice" or read through the blog post "How Zombies Can Help You Avoid Passive Voice" for more details on passive voice and strategies to avoid it.
- See more tips on the Writing Center’s passive vs. active voice page.
Would you like a current or future assignment to be reviewed by the Writing Center? If so please visit the Writing Center's Paper Review Website and make an appointment with us!
Do you have other general writing questions? E-mail the Writing Center at email@example.com.
Other questions about your doctoral capstone or the Form & Style review? E-mail the Dissertation Editors at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to peruse other writing resources? Go to the Writing Center’s homepage.