Active Voice Versus Passive Voice – A Guide for Bloggers
As a blogger, differentiating between active and passive voice is mandatory. The choice between active voice and passive voice usage usually depends on the type of blog you’re writing.
The divide between passive voice vs active voice is subtle, but by the time you’re done reading this article, and with enough practice, you’ll surely understand when to use active voice and its variant for blogging.
What You Will Learn
- What is active voice?
- Active voice examples
- What is passive voice?
- Passive voice examples
Active Vs Passive Voice – A Guide for Bloggers
Active Voice Explained
When you write in active voice, a certain pattern must be followed. In simple words, the sentence must be composed of a subject, followed by a verb, and an object.
Sound simple? Here’s where you can look up the difference between a subject and an object first before moving on. You might want to brush-up on verbs too while you’re at it.
Now that you’re clear about the two, here are a few examples of active voice:
“The teachers respect the principal.”
In the above active voice example, the teachers are the subject. This, of course, is followed by the action (verb) which is respect, and the object, which in this case, is the principal.
Easy-peasy right? Here’s another active voice example to help you wrap your head around the idea:
“The lizard outran the snakes.”
Go on, give it a go. Yes, you got that right! The lizard here is the subject which beat the snakes (object) by outrunning (verb) them.
Passive Voice? What’s That?
You can think of passive voice as the exact opposite of an active voice. To put this in perspective, you must consider the object, who is on the receiving end of the action, to be the subject for a change.
Here are a few passive voice sentences which are active to passive voice transformations of the same examples given under active voice subheading.
“The principal was respected by the teachers.”
As you can clearly see in the above passive form of the active voice example, the object (principal) swaps positions with the subject (teachers). In other words, the nouns which used to be on the receiving end of the action becomes the subject in the passive voice sentence.
Your turn now. Take the second active voice example from above and figure out its passive voice transformation. If your sentence reads like the following, you’re spot-on.
“The snakes were outrun by the lizard.”
As you’ve probably figured out by now, the object, which were the snakes stands-in for the subject.
Now that you’ve gotten a gist of active voice and passive voice, go ahead and practice a few more passive exercises which contain a list of passive sentences that need to be rewritten in active voice.
The ‘To Be’ Bewilderment
Most bloggers are under the impression that if there is a “to be” in the sentence with a past participle trailing it, it’s a clear indication that passive voice is being used.
Yes, that is correct. “To be” followed by a past participle is a sign of passive voice. But not entirely.
For instance, “I am cutting a tree” is in active voice. Its passive form is “The tree is being cut by me.” In this example you’ll notice that the sentence in active voice uses “am” which is a verb and a semblance of “to be”.
However, the sentence in passive form, which depicts the subject as the pen isn’t performing any action at all. In other words, it’s passive.
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The Big Question: When Should You Choose Passive and Active Voice?
Before you engage yourself further into the active passive conundrum, it’d be wise to understand what specific advantages one has over the other.
You heard that right. Passive and active voices have their own unique applications in writing.
But in general, active voice is preferred over passive voice. Here’s why:
- Active voice is much more engaging and interesting than passive voice. When you say, “The teachers respect the principal”, it sounds more direct and precise than its passive form: “The principal is respected by the teachers.” The advantage here is that readers can relate quite easily to what you’re trying to say. In other words, your content becomes engaging.
- Also, when you employ active voice in your blogs, you declutter it. For instance, the sentence: ‘the lizard outran the snakes’ is much shorter than ‘The snakes were outrun by the lizard’. As a result, not only are you being more direct with your sentences in active voice, you’re also making it less wordy.
You must’ve already had a winner by now in the active passive voice preference. Yes, most would choose active voice over passive voice. But just hang on because passive voice too has its own applications.
- Passive voice comes handy when the subject is not mentioned. In the sentence: ‘Timmy was pushed into the river’, the subject that pushed Timmy into the river is unknown. Therefore it’s best understood in passive form.
- ‘The wooden bat started chipping.’ In this sentence, passive voice is used because the object (noun) is under focus, not the action it receives.
- As a blogger you have to understand and predict what your readers want to read. Passive voice helps in executing this bit. In the sentence: ‘The milk was boiled’, the part where the milk was boiled is crucial, not the person who boiled it.
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Hey Blogger, What’s Your Style? Active Or Passive?
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the distinction between active and passive voice is subtle.
Neither is incorrect. Most prefer using active over passive, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll know that on occasions passive voice is much better than the active form.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. As a blogger you’ll have to ask some questions:
- Is your content engaging enough?
- What details do you want your readers to focus on?
Answer these and read up on a few active and passive voice examples to know what voice ultimately suits your writing.