Answered By: Rachel Willard Last Updated: Aug 13, 2015 Views: 1560
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.
Although it is not always inappropriate to use, 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 do not 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.
The research was completed by the student.
- This example is in the passive voice with "was," an "-ed" ending, and a "by" phrase.
- Who or what did the action? The student did the action.
- Revision: The student completed the research.
The pizzas were eaten by the hungry children.
- This example is in the passive voice with "were," an "-en" ending, and "by" phrase.
- Who or what did the action? The hungry children did the action.
- Revision: The hungry children ate the pizzas.
The cookie was taken.
- This example is in the passive voice with missing subject.
- Who or what did the action? The sentence does not state who did the action, 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 and active voice page.
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