Friday, July 23, 2021

Writing: Active and Passive Voice (And Zombies)


 When I first began to write "mysteries with heart," one of the "rules" drummed into me as a neophyte writer was to avoid the passive voice. Theoretically, it was because a sentence in the passive voice failed to put the reader into the action, whereas a sentence written in the active voice pulled the reader in. I honestly don't know that that holds true 100% of the time, but it does sound peculiar to write something in the passive voice. Even scientific writing avoids it. Actually, it has become such second nature with me that I had a difficult time coming up with some examples for this blog post.

Put as simply as possible, the active voice makes the subject the "do-er" of the sentence, whereas the passive voice makes something being done to it. One blog post I recently read suggests that we identify the subject and verb in the sentence (yes, we have to recognize subjects and verbs--deal with it)...anyway, it suggests adding the phrase "by zombies". This is a sure-fire way, I'm told, of identifying a passive sentence.

Here are some examples they quote

  • Mistakes were made (by zombies). Tears were shed (by zombies). — passive voice
  • The new policy was approved (by zombies). — passive voice
  • We are often told (by zombies) to use the active voice instead of the passive voice. — passive voice
I doubt that you'll be called up to use this a lot, though. What do you think?

4 comments:

Priscilla Bettis said...

"By zombies," that's so clever! I'll be on the lookout for zombie action in my writing.:-)

Richard Mabry said...

I've seen it recommended in several places. I don't know how useful it is, but every little bit helps.

Patricia Bradley said...

I'd never heard this before...so I'll be sure to look for zombie activities in my writing. lol Excellent tip!

Richard Mabry said...

Let me know how it helps. Thanks for your comment.