Use The Active Voice


A Very Passive Murder (John Vorhaus)

The room was walked into by a man by whom strong, handsome features were had. A woman was met by him. The bed was lain upon by her. Then the bed was lain upon by him. Clothing was removed from them both. Sex was had. Climax was achieved. Afterward, cigarettes were smoked by them. Suddenly, the door was opened by the husband of the woman by whom the bed was lain upon. A gun was held by him. Some screams were screamed and angry words exchanged. Jealousy was felt by the man by whom the gun was held. Firing of the gun was done by him. The flying of bullets took place. Impact was felt by bodies. The floor was hit by bodies. Remorse was then felt by the man by whom the gun was held. The gun was turned upon himself.

Verbs in the above paragraph are in the passive voice.
Technically-speaking a passive verb construction comprises the following:

Form of a “be” verb + past participle.

The woman was shot by her jealous husband.

“Woman” is the subject, “was” is the be verb, “shot” is the past participle.

Active voice:
The jealous husband shot his wife.

“Woman” is the subject, “was” is the be verb, “eaten” is an irregular past participle.
The woman was eaten by her jealous shark

The jealous shark ate the woman.

In both examples, the active voice uses fewer words (that’s a good thing), and they are easier to read.

Use the active voice unless you have a good reason to you the passive voice.

After bagging six chicks, syphilis was caught by Jacobo.

After bagging six chicks, Jacobo caught syphilis.

The second one is better because it is shorter and more direct.

Sometimes it’s appropriate to use the passive voice:

In order to control the jerk population, many Yankee fans are destroyed each year.

Her husband was sure of a couple of things: the condoms under the bed were used, and all of her text messages had been erased.

In both sentences, the subjects are more important than who is doing the destroying or stuffing.

Exercises: Convert the following sentence to the active voice.

1. The gazillionaire was surprised by Professor Tashman’s deep knowledge of hedge-funds and French fries.

2. He was cooed at by the crazed beauties, by the housebroken starlet, by the distraught girleen.

3. In hot July and cold February, baby-doll dresses and buttocks-baring trousers are worn by Broadway actresses with matchstick bodies.

4. When I strolled into his kitchen, muscles, cockles, and clams were being steamed in pungent, garlicky broth.

5. A storybook wedding was dreamed of by the ugly bride-to-be

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: