Tip: Active Voice versus Passive Voice

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One thing you should be trying to do with your style is to write actively rather than passively.

Passive voice slows the action, deadens the emotions and distances the reader from the action. But what is it? I hear you ask.

Well, consider these sentences:

You are loved by me.
That’s a passive sentence. The subject of the sentence – the person doing the action – is right at the end.

The active version of that sentence is:
I love you.

Now, which is more powerful and more likely to engage the reader?

Exactly. “I love you” is more powerful and is a good example of active voice.

Passive voice is usually the domain of bureaucrats and politicians. It is very formal. It takes longer to understand.

If you want to create a character who uses these attributes deliberately, like Sir Humphrey in the Yes, Minister series, by all means do. But don’t make it your narrative style.

To make a sentence active is really easy. You just bring whoever, or whatever, is doing the action of the sentence up to the front. That’s it.

That will fix 95% of most passive sentences, and if your sentence is one of the 5%, then the whole sentence probably needs to be pulled apart and re-written anyway.

Fixing passive voice can happen when you redraft and rewrite your work, but it’s worth training yourself to spot it as you write it.

Active voice is just one element of style, but it’s an important one.