Using Active and Passive Voice

Understanding when and how to use passive and active voice is essential for effective communication. 

In active voice, the subject performs the action directly. Use active voice when you want to emphasise the doer of the action and make your writing more concise and engaging. Active voice is straightforward, direct and creates a sense of immediacy.

  • For example: “The teacher explained the lesson.”

In passive voice, the subject receives the action, and the doer may be omitted or placed in a prepositional phrase. Use passive voice when you want to shift the focus from the doer to the object of the action, when the doer is unknown or less important, or when you want to create a more formal tone.

Passive voice is useful when the emphasis is on the action or when the object of the action is of greater significance.

  • For example: “The lesson was explained by the teacher.”

When to Use Passive Voice

  • To emphasise the object or receiver of the action rather than the doer. Example: “The painting was admired by everyone.”
  • When the doer is unknown or irrelevant. Example: “Mistakes were made.”
  • In scientific or academic writing, where the focus is on the process rather than the doer. Example: “The results were analysed using statistical software.”

When to Use Active Voice:

  • To emphasise the doer or agent of the action. Example: “The team won the championship.”
  • When you want to make your writing more direct and concise. Example: “He wrote the report.”
  • In persuasive or argumentative writing, where the active voice adds strength and conviction to your statements. Example: “I believe we should take action now.”

Tips for Choosing the Appropriate Voice

Consider your audience and purpose. Active voice is generally more engaging, while passive voice can be used in specific contexts for emphasis or formality.

Be mindful of sentence structure. Passive voice often requires more words and can make sentences more complex. Active voice usually results in shorter, clearer sentences.

Use passive voice sparingly and intentionally. Overuse of passive voice can make writing sound dull or ambiguous. Aim for clarity and directness in most cases.

Edit and revise your writing. Pay attention to the voice of your sentences during the editing process. Look for opportunities to strengthen your writing by using active voice where appropriate.

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