Passive voice is one of my biggest writing pet peeves. I don’t know why, but it just is! Being able to identify and eliminating it is important for all kinds of writing to help make your writing clearer and more easily understandable.
What is passive voice? So when your writing uses active voice, a person or object does something. Here’s are some examples:
- Jennifer walked the dog.
- Ronni created the online course materials.
- Company ABC filed a lawsuit.
So in these examples, the subject of the sentence (Jennifer, Ronni, Company ABC) did something.
This is what those sentences look like in passive voice:
- The dog was walked by Jennifer.
- The online course materials were created by Ronni.
- The lawsuit was filed by Company ABC.
And easy way to find passive voice is look for the word “by” and even an implied “by.” If something is done “by” someone or something, it’s almost certainly passive voice.
Now, there are some instances where you may not want to include information about who is doing something. For example, look at these sentences:
- You weren’t invited to the meeting.
- The accident report was issued on Monday.
Notice that neither of these sentences use the word “by,” but you can still figure out it’s passive voice by an implied “by.” Who didn’t invite you to the meeting? You weren’t invited to the meeting by Jeremy. Who issued the report? The accident report was issued on Monday by the executive team. But maybe someone doesn’t want to reveal it was Jeremy who didn’t want to invite you, and maybe you don’t want to reveal who wrote an accident report. These are instances where it’s ok to use passive voice–just don’t overdo it!
Here’s how to change the previous examples to active voice:
- Jeremy didn’t invite you to the meeting.
- The executive committee released the accident report on Monday.
If you want some additional examples of passive voice in a whole bunch of different tenses, check out 50 Passive Voice Examples over at EnglishPost.org!