What is the difference between active voice and passive voice?
The active voice has a subject (a noun; person, place, or thing) doing something.
The passive voice has something being done to the subject. Or perhaps the subject is being passive about whatever it’s doing.
Let me explain.
Here is an example of the active voice:
The cow jumped over the moon.
In this example, the cow is the subject. It’s action is jumping. The moon is the object which the cow jumped over.
Let’s try that in passive voice:
The moon was jumped over by the cow.
Again, the subject is the cow, the action is jumping, and the moon is the object that gets jumped over. But in this example, the object is shown first, along with what is happening to the object. The subject that does the action is shown at the end.
Both sentences mean the same thing, but the first example flows better. The second example also uses two more words than the first to convey the same message.
Another example of passive voice is to keep the subject first, but use passive verbiage to convey the message.
Let’s take the above example and switch it to present tense.
Here it is in active voice:
The cow jumps over the moon.
Now let’s look at a passive version that keeps the subject first:
The cow is jumping over the moon.
Both sentences mean the same thing, but the second sentence uses one extra word and two extra syllables. The first sentence is more concise.
In conclusion, not only does writing in the active voice sound better, but the sentences are more concise. There is no need for unnecessary words.
When writing just about anything, do your best to stick with the active voice. Your message will come out cleaner and smoother. Plus, it’s the standard way to write things. Publishers, editors, and readers often frown upon overusing the passive voice.
How about your own writing? Can you find examples of the passive voice that could easily be changed to the active voice?
Note: The above image calls “my sister” the subject. In the way I explained it, I would have called “wild penguins” the subject and “my sister” the object. Perhaps whoever created the image wanted to avoid being accused of objectifying women. ;-P