How to Write in the Active Voice Vs the Passive Voice
Is your writing slow? Do your readers have to slog through your words in order to get the meaning? Is your writing without passion? Are your readers going to sleep by the end of your story? Is your writing long winded and ultra formal sounding?
Then you may be suffering from passive vox syndrome!
But don’t worry. Curing your writing of the passive voice is relatively easy and straight forward. Just send…
Okay, time to change to a more serious tone. Writing in an active voice is generally considered to be better than writing in passive voice. There are many reasons for this. Most of those reasons have to do with either the readability or the emotional connection of the two writing styles.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write in the passive voice. But like a spice it should be used with a delicate hand. Or typewriter or whatever you use to write with.
First off, the active voice is where the subject performs the action defined by the verb on the subject. The passive voice is the reverse. Clear as mud? How this… a writer writes with an active voice. On the other hand, the passive voice is written by the writer. The writer writes both but you’ll notice that he (or she) is the subject in the first and the object in the second.
So how do you write in the active voice?
The simplest answer is to always keep focus on who is doing the acting. Think of yourself as the camera operator.
Who is the main actor in the scene? Focus on what they are doing. If your hero is the focus then they need to be the subject when action occurs. Your hero punches the villain. If the focus then switches to a response — the villain punches the hero back — you need to change the focus to the other party. If your focus is always on showing the person acting then you’ll naturally write in an active voice.
So you’ve already written your book or story or whatever you’re doing. And now you’ve been told you should have written it in active voice.
How do you switch a piece of writing from passive voice to active voice?
Start by scanning for “by” verbs. Those are verbs that are followed by the word “by”. They aren’t always passive but it’s pretty common. Then search for the “be” verbs. You know the ones where the verb is preceded by “be”, “was”, “is” or “are”. “His shoes were being put on by him” is a good example where both these tests work.
Chances are, when you finish rewriting these sentences your writing will be active enough to be acceptable.
Then try rewriting the sentence to put the subject first. “He put on his shoes” to use the previous example. You may find you need to restructure the sentence or phrase. That’s okay. One of the benefits of active sentences is that they are shorter.