Using the Passive Voice Properly

Verbs are the precious jewels of writers everywhere. It does not matter if the writer composes poetry, hacks away at a novel, or spills out memoirs. If verbs are employed correctly, they leave a resounding impression that lingers long after the page is turned and the book is closed.

So as writers, what are the best ways to utilize these beauties?

Today I would like to relay a few examples to help you safely avoid the passive voice. Many writers struggle with this and I write this post for myself just as much as my audience. Sometimes it takes going over a subject multiple times in order to get it right. Like for instance, writing a blog post about it.

He thoughted, no he was thinking, no thoughting? Hmm.

The difference between active and passive verbs – Verbs tell us who receives the action in a sentence. It can also help the characters stand out instead of disappearing to the side of the action. See the example below:

The foul ball was snagged by Johnny.

Johnny snagged the foul ball.

Both of these are grammatically correct, but in the first sentence the ball appears to be the subject even though we want Johnny to be the center of attention.

There are many ways to be direct when using verbs to keep the action churning. For instance, try cutting a sentence in two:

Hailea was following Kellen when a brigade on horseback galloped past.

Hailea followed Kellen. A brigade on horseback galloped past.

Passive voice can be appropriate in certain situations. For instance if your character must take a step aside to relay some of the setting:

While most farmers turned in for the evening, a few in the distance were finishing their plots.

If the passive voice is not your kryptonite, search for something that is. This way when you engage an agent and they accept your novel, you don’t have to hire a professional editor. Mastering your writing weakness could go a long way to realizing your publishing dreams.



2 thoughts on “Using the Passive Voice Properly

  1. You’ve guessed it. I’m a repeat offender here. Even if I guard against using passive voice, it somehow always finds a way back in. I get so engrossed in my story I lose track of it. Edits are usually reserved for fixing this. In my case, anyway.

    Good article, thanks Bob.

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