The Power of Active Voice: Writing with Clarity and Engagement

Key Takeaways:

– Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence is acted upon, rather than performing the action itself.
– Active voice is usually preferred in writing because it is clearer and more concise.
– Passive voice can be used strategically in certain situations, such as when emphasizing the action or when the doer is unknown.

Understanding Passive Voice

Passive voice is a grammatical construction where the subject of the sentence is acted upon, rather than performing the action itself. It is formed by using forms of the verb “to be” (such as “is,” “was,” “were”) followed by the past participle of the main verb. For example, “The book was written by the author.” In this sentence, the book is the subject and is being acted upon by the author.

The Importance of Active Voice

Active voice, on the other hand, is when the subject of the sentence performs the action. It is generally preferred in writing because it is clearer, more direct, and more engaging for the reader. Active voice sentences are often shorter and more concise, making them easier to understand. For example, “The author wrote the book.” In this sentence, the author is the subject and is performing the action of writing the book.

Strategic Use of Passive Voice

While active voice is generally preferred, there are instances where passive voice can be used strategically. One such instance is when the focus is on the action rather than the doer. For example, “The Mona Lisa was painted in the 16th century.” Here, the emphasis is on the painting itself rather than the artist who painted it. Passive voice can also be used when the doer is unknown or unimportant. For example, “The car was stolen.” In this case, the focus is on the action of stealing rather than the person who stole the car.

Common Mistakes with Passive Voice

One common mistake with passive voice is using it unintentionally. Sometimes, writers may use passive voice without realizing it, resulting in unclear or awkward sentences. It is important to be aware of passive voice and use it intentionally when it serves a purpose. Another mistake is overusing passive voice, which can make the writing dull and less engaging. It is important to strike a balance and use active voice whenever possible.

Tips for Writing in Active Voice

To improve your writing and reduce the use of passive voice, here are some tips:

1. Identify the subject and verb in each sentence and make sure the subject is performing the action.
2. Use strong, active verbs to make your writing more dynamic.
3. Keep sentences concise and to the point.
4. Avoid unnecessary use of forms of “to be” (such as “is,” “was,” “were”).
5. Read your writing aloud to identify any instances of passive voice and rephrase them in active voice.

The Debate on Passive Voice

There is an ongoing debate among writers and grammarians about the use of passive voice. Some argue that it should be avoided altogether, while others believe it has its place in certain contexts. Ultimately, the key is to use passive voice intentionally and strategically, rather than relying on it as a default. By understanding the purpose and effects of passive voice, writers can make informed decisions about when to use it and when to opt for active voice.


Passive voice in writing can be a useful tool when used strategically, but it is generally preferred to write in active voice for clarity and engagement. Understanding the difference between passive and active voice, as well as the situations where passive voice can be effective, is crucial for effective writing. By being intentional with the use of passive voice and following the tips for writing in active voice, writers can improve the quality and impact of their writing.

Written by Martin Cole

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