Friday, August 7, 2009

Are You Dominating Your Passive Voice?


Are you a passive writer?

Lately I’ve been struggling with my passive voice. I just can’t convince it to take a sick day. It pops up when I least expect it and some days I wish I could have it surgically removed.

What on Jupiter am I going on about?

Passive and active voices.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with these it all comes down to sentence structure and verb choice. Get that wrong and your readers going to take a nap right in the middle of Chapter 2.

Passive voice, where it doesn’t belong, can be recognized as an awkward sentence that will jerk you right out of the story.

A simple comparison of active and passive voices:

Active: Lucas kissed Teresa
Passive: Teresa was kissed by Lucas.

As you can see the verbs used in an active voice are more dynamic because they are more direct and emphasize the agent or doer of the action. But don’t misunderstand, just because the active voice makes for forceful writing doesn’t mean we’re trying to stamp out the passive voice altogether (no matter how tempting that might be). A passive voice is useful when the receiver of the action is more important than the agent and so we aim to minimize its usage (which you can do by violently hitting your delete key).

Often the difference between a powerful piece of writing and something guaranteed to put you to sleep is the use of your passive and active voices – made all the more difficult to achieve if yours has gone rogue like mine has.

Who said editing wasn’t fun?


How do you catch a passive aggressive takeover from voice land?
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9 comments:

gaelikaa said...

This is informative and makes me think!

Jackie Ashenden said...

You know what? The grammar thing in Word went ape over nearly every one of my sentences with the ole 'this phrase is in the passive voice' underline. So I turned off the grammar thing!

Stupid passive voice. When I edit, I just read and if it sounds awkward I change it. Which is probably not very good England. ;-)

Judy Jarvie said...

I frequently encounter mine wandering the tumbleweed streets of my stories...I then have to get the straightjacket out, rewrite and force it into hiding.

Lorraine said...

Oh God, something else to worry about!

Happy editing Lacey :-)

Lacey Devlin said...

Thanks Gaelikkaa :)

Ahh the gramma thing in word! Yes. My little friend of the red and green lines. I think it does more harm than good Jackie I really do!

I could do with a straight jacket too Judy!

Hmmm when you reread that line it doesn't sound so good...

I know Lorraine! The list is growing. I thought I had Mr. Passive voice under control but he's a sneaky little thing!

Felicity Roger said...

Active...passive...I am with Jackie, when I begin to nod off when I edit or things sound a little strange, I change the sentence.

PS: I will update my blog soon. I promise.

Lacey Devlin said...

LoL Felicity!

No pressure :)

Suzanne Jones said...

When I first started to write it all seemed so easy. But the more I learn, the harder it gets. There's just so much to think about...

:-(

Lacey Devlin said...

Part of the fun is trying to keep your own head from exploding isn't it Suzanne? ;)