Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

What, How, When, & Why?

Writing effectively involves understanding and using various writing styles. Among these, active and passive voice play a crucial role in shaping the tone and clarity of your content. In this post, we will explore the differences between active and passive voice, how to adjust sentences, when to use active/passive, and how these voices can improve your writing.
Active voice is direct and engaging. In active sentences, the subject performs the action. This structure creates clarity and makes your writing more dynamic. For example:
  • Mary baked a cake. (Active)
  • The cake was baked by Mary. (Passive)
In the first sentence, the subject (Mary) performs the action (baking). The active voice emphasizes Mary’s role, making the sentence clear and concise.
Passive voice, on the other hand, focuses on the recipient. (You’ll often hear this referred to as the “object,” since it is receiving action from the subject.) Passive sentences often include “by” followed by the action’s performer. For example, in the second sentence above, the cake receives the action.
While passive voice can be less engaging — which is why we normally avoid it —passive voice has specific uses. Passive voice can emphasize or deemphasize the action. It can also deemphasize the subject, thus affecting the reader in various ways. Thus, passive voice can be helpful for scientific, legal, or formal writing. For example:
  • The results were analyzed thoroughly. (Passive)
  • The law was enacted by the government. (Passive)
Here, passive voice shifts the focus from the performer to the action or its recipient, creating a more formal tone.
To enhance your writing, follow these guidelines:
  1. Use active voice for clarity and engagement. Active voice keeps your readers interested and ensures your message is clear.
  2. Use passive voice when the action or its recipient is more important than the performer. This can create a sense of objectivity or formality.
  3. Don’t overuse passive voice, as it can make your writing sound vague or wordy.
  4. Remember that active and passive voice can coexist in a piece of writing. Striking the right balance can make your content more versatile and appealing.
In conclusion, mastering active and passive voice is essential for effective writing. By understanding when to use each and striking the right balance, you can create compelling, clear, and engaging content that resonates with your audience.
New Blog Post