Thursday, October 15, 2015

Passive Voice

Many readers lose the plot (quite literally) when the author starts to use passive voice. Passive voice is when things happen to something or someone, instead of people doing things.
“The grass was mown by Fred from next door.”
In active voice it’s much better. “Fred from next door mowed the grass.”
See the difference. Second time around we want to know all about it. Did the person watching enjoy the scent of fresh-mown grass? Was Fred from next door young and handsome? Or was he a senior citizen that had our reporter wondering if she ought to take him a cool drink before he developed heat stroke?

Some writers (and school students) struggle to know whether what they’ve written is active or passive. A simple test is if you can insert “by zombies” after the verb you have passive voice.

In our first example above “was mown” is the verb.
“The grass was mown by zombies” is passive voice.
In our second example “mowed” is the verb.
“Fred from next door mowed by zombies”. Nope that doesn’t work. The sentence is in active voice.

So now you know. If you want to kill off the bad habit of writing in passive voice, be sure to check by adding “by zombies” after your verb.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.

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