It is sometimes necessary to use the passive voice to place the most important information at the beginning. The easiest way to spot passive voice is to look for state-of-being verbs and often the word by. You may have learned that the passive voice is weak and incorrect, but it isn’t that simple. So, let’s look at some more comparisons between passive voice and active voice. In these sentences you can count on your reader to know that you are the one who did the dissolving and the titrating. Passive voice sounds a lot more, well, passive. (Modals) When you use active voice, your writing is far more clear and concise. In the passive writing voice, whatever is doing the action of the sentence is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Start your new sentence with the actor. Passive: Some information can be given about the job by Juan. The Language Analysis PlatformThat MeansBusiness, VisibleThread™ ©2020. ], An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. Students need good study skills to succeed in college. But you can still go back through your essay hunting specifically for passive sentences. But, you’ve probably heard that you should avoid passive voice, if possible. Finally, passive sentences often sound wordy and indirect. We thought so. When you use active voice, the subject of your sentence performs an action, which is represented by a verb. The passive voice is especially helpful (and even regarded as mandatory) in scientific or technical writing or lab reports, where the actor is not really important but the process or principle being described is of ultimate importance. In some sentences, passive voice can be perfectly acceptable. Passive voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the Materials and Methods section. When you’re looking at a single sentence, identify who is taking the action. Note: Over the past several years, there has been a movement within many science disciplines away from passive voice. As such, there are many ways to change the passive voice to the active voice in your sentences. [We don’t know who made them. The first one, right? Active voice uses a much clearer structure. You? Let’s use the passive voice in our examples from above: The toe was stubbed by Beth. 1. It is wordy. The grammar checker in your word processor can help spot passive sentences, though grammar checkers should always be used with extreme caution since they can easily mislead you. Examples provide a lot of clarity. If that thing or person appears toward the end of the sentence, then chances are good that you’re using a passive sentence structure. VT Writer does it for you with just a couple of clicks.Â. [We are not interested in who is building it. Usefulness of Passive Voice. In contrast, when you use passive voice, the subject is no longer performing an action. The executive team, but they’re not mentioned until the end of the sentence. Quick Exercise Put the following sentences into passive voice. To learn more about the use of passive voice in the sciences, visit our handout on writing in the sciences. You should learn the passive so that you can better understand listening and reading passages, but also know when and how to use it yourself. If one clause is in the passive voice, the other, too, should be in the passive voice. Was that introduction tough to read? Note: Over the past several years, there has been a movement within many science disciplines away from passive voice. The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water. The researchers compared the behavior of two groups of children. Active : You must obey the traffic rules. In short, when used thoughtfully, a passive voice can be a useful tool, but in most cases, switching to an active voice will make your writing clearer, livelier and far more enjoyable to read. Passive voice: Active voice: In this ideology the argument used to sustain the subjugation of women has largely rested on premises about biological difference - the biological differences between men and women have been used to legitimate hierarchical structures of social inequality. Few topics engender such heated debates as that of active vs. passive voice. However, sometimes the passive voice is more appropriate. Passive voice means that a subject is a recipient of a verb’s action. Take your writing sentence by sentence. Passive Voice Misuse. The passive writing voice occurs when something that is ordinarily “done by” the subject of a sentence is “done by” the object of a sentence. Your understanding of what passive voice is will be increased, and your ability to recognize it in your writing will be improved. [By whomever, whenever.]. Let’s cut to the chase: using the passive voice almost always makes your writing more distant and your message less clear. Use this as your guide to avoid passive voice in your writing. In other words, the most important thing or person becomes the subject of the sentence. Try turning each passive sentence you find into an active one. Here’s the same sample using passive voice: The proposal (subject) was submitted (verb) by Rosalie. Similarly, there’s a reason so many politicians love passive voice: It’s evasive, and is a subtle way for them to avoid taking responsibility. Passive sentences can get you into trouble in academic writing because they can be vague about who is responsible for the action: Both Othello and Iago desire Desdemona. When you’re looking at a single sentence,... 2. Eager to improve your writing even further? Confused? Ever write a sentence like one of these? There's a bit of controversy surrounding the concept of passive vs. active voice in copywriting; many advocate … The clerk was helping the customer. In a passive sentence, the person or thing acted on comes first, and the actor is added at the end, introduced with the preposition “by.” The passive form of the verb is signaled by a form of “to be”: in the sentence above, “was formulated” is in passive voice while “formulated” is in active. Over time, writing in the active voice will become second nature. Below are 3 reasons you might intentionally use the passive voice. Did you catch the passive voice in that very sentence? Physicists have examined the possibility of cold fusion for many years. Use the “by zombies” test. In writing, always consider whether you should use the passive or active voice. This is not the case in other formal settings, such as in resumes and in cover letters. Look for who’s taking the action. Are you more comfortable saying, “I put the mail in the mailbox” or, “The mail was put into the mailbox by me”? Saying, “Your claims representative will handle your claim” offers more details and feels far less ambiguous. For the most part, the passive voice makes your writing vaguer. This pie will be loved by John. You, your business, and your customers will be better off for it. We know that this can be tough to identify, especially if you don’t pride yourself on being a grammar whiz. You’ll see this most frequently with the phrase, “Mistakes were made…” A politician might say, “Mistakes were made in the handling of this pandemic…” instead of, “We made mistakes while handling this pandemic.”, For this same reason, organizations lean on passive voice when they need to deliver bad or potentially unpopular news. Like we mentioned above, sometimes a passive sentence structure doesn’t explicitly state who’s taking the action—and those instances won’t be caught by the above trick. The above strategies will help you cut down your use of passive voice. Passive Voice: When to Use It and When to Avoid It, Written by Tim Corson and Rebecca Smollett, University College Writing Centre. This often results in the passive voice being the best choice. When used correctly and in moderation, the passive voice is fine. If you can add the phrase “by zombies” to the end of the sentence and it still makes grammatical sense, then it’s passive voice. Passive: The wedding … Passive2: They can be given some information about the JOB by Juan. ], Rules are made to be broken. Passive voices for Past Modals (e.g. Firstly, passive sentences are wordy. Here are a few tips to help you. In a passive sentence, we often omit the actor completely: The uncertainty principle was formulated in 1927. Scientists often now prefer active voice in most parts of their published reports, even occasionally using the subject “we” in the Materials and Methods section. While this may seem like a forced rule, it also stems from the fact that scholars want to emphasize the science or research as opposed to the author of the paper. You’re on the right track. The indirect structure of a passive sentence can easily hide the identity of who’s taking the action. By placing an item at Using active voice for the majority of your sentences makes your meaning clear for readers, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. This guide will help you understand what passive voice is, how to recognize it, and how you can kick it to the curb once and for all. In English, all sentences are in either “active” or “passive” voice: active: Werner Heisenberg formulated the uncertainty principle in 1927. passive: The uncertainty principle was formulated by Werner Heisenberg in 1927. Take your writing sentence by sentence. Passive voice can be a little challenging to grasp, which means it can easily sneak into your business writing. Passive voice is the domain of professors, politicians, and lawyers. With passive voice, the subject is acted upon by the verb. The active voice sounds more authoritative and direct. For example, saying, “Your claim will be handled” doesn’t tell the user who will be handling their claim. Use the passive voice rarely, and only to serve an intentional purpose. Active Voice: The subject of the sentence is the one doing the action. ], Mistakes were made. The possibility of cold fusion has been examined for many years. It will analyze your documents and provide a score for: It’ll save you all of the time and hassle of taking a fine-toothed comb to your writing. Scientists often now prefer active voice in most parts of their published reports, even occasionally using the subject “we” in the Materials and Methods section. Here’s a simple example of active voice: Rosalie (subject) submitted (verb) the proposal. However, that doesn’t mean every instance of those words is automatically passive voice. Too many passive sentences can create confusion: Research has been done to discredit this theory. Cases where the passive voice is preferred The passive voice is often distinguished by its use of a linking verb form (e.g., was, had been) followed by another verb in its past participle form (e.g., "I have been given an opportunity"). This isn’t a foolproof system, as there are exceptions. This argument is relevant to writing in general, but I think it’s particularly so to scientific writing. But, more often than not, they’ll clue you in on some sentences that need to be revised for clarity. Academic writing often focuses on differences between the ideas of different researchers, or between your own ideas and those of the researchers you are discussing. But, passive voice can still be hard to catch. Passive voice and active voice are two different ways in which a sentence can be structured. Passive voice is unnecessarily wordy. All rights reserved, Mitigating risk and positioning to win in a virtual world, Prioritize plain language to boost your CAHPS score, Webinar: 3 GovCon Tech Trends you can’t ignore in 2021, 4 ways for insurance providers to boost customer experience, VT Docs version 3.4.1 is now available for on-premise customers. Why Copywriters Avoid The Passive Voice. That’s why so much passive voice creeps into formal business writing. Iago? It will depend on what you, the writer, want to convey: if you want to draw attention to the doer, use the passive voice; if your intent is to put the focus on the action, then you should go for the active voice. It removes the punch and power of your words, which makes your writing less convincing. Did the style sound removed and academic? In an affirmative sentence in present/future tense, the passive voice with modals takes the form ‘object + modal (may, must, can, could, ought to, should) + be + past participle of main verb (third form).’ 'Given', the past participle of 'give' and 'be' are used as per the form the passive voice takes with modal 'may. If you now use a lot of passive sentences, you may not be able to catch all of the problematic cases in your first draft. That’s where this strategy helps. The passive … To direct a reader's focus. Some students use passive sentences to hide holes in their research: The telephone was invented in the nineteenth century. Why? The passive voice places the emphasis on your experiment rather than on you. There are two main reasons for this. Let’s start by brushing up your grammar knowledge. But, this will help you avoid passive voice in your writing. MIGHT HAVE,MAY HAVE, SHOULD HAVE, OUGHT TO HAVE, MUST HAVE) They can make the reader work unnecessarily hard. The rationale for using the passive voice in scientific writing is that it achieves “an objective tone”—for example, by avoiding the first person. Here’s an example: “Mistakes were made…” You can easily and reasonably tack on “by zombies” to say, “Mistakes were made by zombies.” That sentence is written in passive voice. Evading responsibility is not only confusing, it can also harm your reputation. Think about how you typically speak. The passive voice places the emphasis on your experiment rather than on you. Passive Voice in Scientific Writing. A sentence is in the passive voice when the word that is the recipient of the action is the subject of the sentence. Passive voice refers to who the action relates to, while past tense refers to when the action happened. You should tell him. This solution was then titrated with hydrochloric acid. Passive voice should be avoided in your business writing. Even in scientific writing, too much use of passive voice can cloud the meaning of your sentences. Here’s an example: “The discussion was hosted by the executive team on Monday.” Who took the action? Using the wrong type of voice in your marketing or business-related writing can be devastating; the way a sentence is built has a large influence on the reader's emotional reaction. Active voice is used for most non-scientific writing. You might use it in the following cases: The cave paintings of Lascaux were made in the Upper Old Stone Age. Some of the most common ones include: They don’t always indicate passive voice (grammar is full of caveats). Combine all of those drawbacks together, and you see that passive voice leads to weaker writing. '. However, learners should limit the use of the passive voice as it can create the impression of awkwardness and lack of confidence. Don’t mix active and passive structures in the same sentence. Yes, most passive voice sentences include an auxiliary verb, such as was, were, had been, etc. The active voice is far more common than the passive voice in English, and therefore you should use it more in the IELTS exam. To spot passive sentences, look for a form of the verb to be in your sentence, with the actor either missing or introduced after the verb using the word “by”: Poland was invaded in 1939, thus initiating the Second World War. And since they are usually longer than active sentences, passive sentences take up precious room in your paper: Since the car was being driven by Michael at the time of the accident, the damages should be paid for by him. Check with your instructor or TA whether you can use the first person “I” or “we” in your lab reports to help avoid the passive. You want to be vague about who is responsible: You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. Understand how both active and passive sentences are structured. All this advice works for papers in the humanities, you might note—but what about technical or scientific papers, including lab reports? [Who did the research? If you write your terms, contracts, or other important documents using passive voice, you can come off as intentionally deceptive. She is courted. In fact, it’s recommended that you keep use of passive voice between five and 10%. Passive: The party was planned by Jill. Active voice is when the subject of the sentence performs the action. An important thing to note about passive voice is that it is not the same thing as past tense. The concept of passive voice will be discussed in this article. It makes for a murky, roundabout sentence; you can be more straightforward with active voice. Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. Check out VT Writer and catch all of your writing crutches. Some writers speak out in vehement opposition to passive voice, others claim it should … So, generally write in the active voice, but consider some of the above examples and some uses of the passive voice that may be useful to implement in your writing. Your professor? All of the examples above—whether they’re written in active voice or passive voice—get their point across. It is still the only treatment available for diabetes. You will likely find that your new sentence is stronger, shorter, and more precise: Germany invaded Poland in 1939, thus initiating the Second World War. You might write, “Interest rates will be raised on November 30, 2020” in a letter to your customers, rather than, “We are raising interest rates on November 30, 2020.”. Instead, the subject is being acted upon. There are a few culprit words that indicate passive voice. [Common in bureaucratic writing! In an active sentence, the person or thing responsible for the action in the sentence comes first. Passive Voice Example 2: … Many instructors recommend or even require the passive voice in such writing. It may not look like a big difference, yet it is. Why should you avoid the passive voice? At first, you may want to ask for help from a writing instructor. There are a restricted number of mediums that may be used for the communication of information in the formal style. The passive voice is a type of sentence construction wherein the subject and object switch places: rather than the subject acting on the object, the object of the action becomes, itself, the subject. Both of them?]. [Who courts Desdemona? The Grammar Monster site has a great graphic about auxiliary verbs and their many uses: Starting to see the difference? However, the passive voice may be used, with intention, to remove the emphasis on the subject and also as a method for varying sentence structure. VT Writer can help. Passive voice often gets criticized as a … Active: Jill planned the party. Using active voice, the sentence is, “The executive team hosted the discussion on Monday.”. Here are two examples of the use of passive voice in a sentence: Passive Voice Example 1: The dog was trained by his owner in two weeks. How to spot passive voice in your own business writing 1. And the best way I know to teach this is by example. Example of intentional passive voice: "References used by students must be cited according to APA conventions." And passive voice impacts plain language. That’s because the entire thing uses passive voice. As a result, it can feel academic, formal, and detached—which is not how you want your customers to feel about your organization and writing. But, as a business writer, how do you avoid passive voice? Here are a few reasons passive voice can sabotage your business writing. Passive: The traffic rules must be obeyed. Passive voice can lead to weak writing. Look at the above examples again and you’ll notice that every passive sentence is longer than the active sentence. The passive voice is common in academic writing; however, it should be avoided in persuasive writing. A lot of people were … It sounds complicated, but you’ve definitely seen it used — and more than likely used it yourself without even thinking about it. Sometimes you may find that need to do some extra research or thinking to figure out who the actor should be! The passive voice is used to show interest in the person or object that experiences an action rather than the person or object that performs the action. [I couldn’t find out who invented the telephone!]. However, one surefire way to reduce human error and catch more occurrences of passive voice is to use software. Active voice is clearer and more natural. Active voice gets your point across in fewer words. Another author?]. 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