Using an active voice adds impact to your writing. This is why most writers use the active voice.
Sentences written in an active voice flow better and are easier to understand. It is usually the subject of the sentence which is performing the action. Examples are: “I really love this dog.” and “Monkeys live in the jungle.”
Sentences using a passive voice are often hard to understand. Passive voice can make a sentence awkward and vague.The emphasis changes to the receiver of the action. Examples are: The pie was eaten by Tony.” and “Tom is loved by Alice.”
Passive sentences usually have more words than active ones, which is one reason the reader has to work harder to get at the meaning. If you have a composition that is too wordy, you may be able to change some of the passive sentences to active ones. Two examples are:
Even though the active voice is used most of the time, there are occasions when a passive voice is chosen. Sometimes it is used to deliberately obscure who is responsible for an action, like if a politician said, “Mistakes were made” or “Shots were fired.” Because an active voice adds impact to your writing, you may want to use the passive voice to lessen the impact of your sentence. For example, businesses may use the passive voice to lessen their impact like “Your service will be shut off” which is passive, rather than “We are going to shut off your service.” which is active.
Sometimes you do not want an active voice in your writing. In crime reports, a policeman would write, “the bank was robbed” because he does not know who robbed the bank. In a mystery novel, you may want to place the emphasis on what was taken, like “the jewels were taken” rather than focusing on the unknown person who took them. Sometimes the passive voice is used to take the author’s opinions and thoughts out of the conclusion, like “The data suggests that this disease is hereditary.”
Some people think that if a sentence has a form of the verb “to be” (examples: is, am, are, was, and were), then it is passive. While a lot of passive sentences have that kind of verb, not all sentences with that verb are passive. Here is a quick quiz to test your knowledge of active and passive voice in sentences. The answers are after the quiz. Are these sentences active or passive?
Answers: The odd numbered questions are all active, and the even numbered ones are passive.