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Use Your Outside Voice – Active and Passive Voice in Writing

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I hope I’m not insulting my followers by suggesting they might be confused about the distinction between active and passive voice and when to use them. I do think this is one of the best explanations I’ve seen.

Eric Lahti

I’m starting to write some of these little notes down, partially in case someone comes along wondering what something is, but also because it helps me commit the ideas to memory.

The Internet is already full of definitions of active voice and passive voice, but writing it down gives me a chance to internalize it and, hopefully, will help someone who was wondering about the differences. It’s mute, sludgy testimony to the intricacies of the English language that such a variation in sentence structure can even exist, let alone have an impact on writing.

If you dig around a little you’ll find all kinds of definitions of active voice and passive voice and they all come down to the same kinds of thing: subject, verb, and object placement in sentences.. The definitions of grammar are written by grammar experts who have not only their own jargon, but their own argot

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2 Comments

  1. Very interesting article, Frank. Thanks for sharing.

    As a writer, I work hard at using the active voice. But there are times when the passive voice is the better choice. As Eric Lahti noted:
    “Another example [of using the passive voice]. Mistakes were made. We don’t know who made them. It certainly wasn’t us, but the mistakes happened so someone must have made them.”

    In fiction, the passive voice can create intrigue and mystery. In non-fiction, it can save us from libel.

    Like

  2. franklparker says:

    Thanks, Rosaliene, for that insightful comment. [Rosaliene was thanked for her comment which was described as ‘insightful’]

    Like

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