Passive Voice: It’s So Passé

Filed in Ask the Editor, Writing Tips by on September 29, 2015 1 Comment



Passive voice has a time and place in writing, as it serves to be a stylistic additive in many books and papers. In some cases, people prefer passive voice in creative pieces, such as poetry and prose; however, writing in passive voice too often in your fiction and non-fiction pieces can cloud your writing. The “passive voice” can best be described as writing that quietly emphasizes the subject in the sentence, rather than the verb. It also indirectly guides the reader to a course of action or situation without a direct voice, which can leave readers scratching their heads. It dampens the tone in your writing, and can even show inconsistency where dynamic, active, confident tones could be.

  • Here’s an example: “I was called an offensive name by someone last night.”

Let’s take a look at what works and what doesn’t. What works here is there is a completed sentence with an identifiable conflict or issue. What doesn’t work here is the lack of specific, concrete and direct tones, which readers would want more of. The reader will be asking, “who did this?” Details are lacking, and the example doesn’t emphasize action.

  • A clearer, more direct way to say this would be: “Sal called me an offensive name yesterday.” Here, the sentence reveals crucial detail.

Keep this in mind when you write, and create a narrative voice that sounds more direct, clear and articulate!

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About the Author ()

Krystina Murray is a Staff Editor at Xulon Press with over six years of editing experience. When she isn't helping writers improve their manuscripts, she devotes her time to crafting poetry and short stories, maintains an exciting food blog and completes copy writing advertisements for small businesses.

Comments (1)

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  1. avatar Belinda says:

    Hi Krystina! This is a great article! I almost felt bad not knowing what “Passive Voice” really was. Thank you for explaining that. I now know how to dodge those type of pitfalls. It is good to have an opportunity to get to know the people working behind the scenes in the book publishing process. If it is not too much trouble, I would like to speak with you about what you do in the copywriting market. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

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