Updated: Aug 7
Lately, I’ve worked with a few author clients who struggle with the same issue in their writing: passive voice. What is that? Passive voice often creates muddy and wordy sentences, affecting the object and subject. (There are instances when passive voice can be used and should be used. For now, let’s work on how to improve copy without it.)
Self-editing tip: To change a sentence from passive to active voice, determine who is performing the action and change that person to the subject of the sentence.
Passive voice: The ball was given by the Darcys.
Active voice: The Darcys hosted the ball.
Passive voice: Once a week the messages would be delivered by a footman.
Active voice: A footman would deliver the messages once a week.
Passive voice: My first date was remembered by me as how my love with him was begun.
Active voice: My love for him began on our first date.
Formula for active voice:
[subject]+[verb (performed by the subject)]+[optional object]
In passive voice, sentences seem more convoluted. In active voice, your prose takes on emotion and immediacy, and your reader is more likely to become invested in your story because your writing emphasizes the “actor” rather than the “action.”
The more you are aware of passive vs. active voice, the more concise, the better your content. Keep working on writing in an active voice. Practice really does make perfect. Then when you have mastered the active voice, you can include passive voice when appropriate—and know how to use it like a pro.