Active voice vs. Passive voice

Week 2 – Grammar Girl

What really surprised me the most was Grammar Girl’s presentation that The Elements of Style book by Strunk and White was inaccurate with their interpretation and examples of passive voice sentences. The examples she gave were 50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice and  English Passive Voice .

Interesting facts that I learned included:

  • Passive voice is not always incorrect.  In fact, it can be helpful in various settings.
  • Scientists are encouraged to write in passive voice because it gives objectivity to their writing. An example would be: “The DNA was sequenced, rather than We sequenced the DNA. “
  • Passive voice creates mystery and therefore is useful when writing fiction.
  • Crime reports are often written in passive voice.

The difference between active voice and passive voice is:

  • In active voice the subject is doing the action.
  • In passive voice, the target of the action is the subject.

Examples:

Active: Steve loves Amy.  Steve is the subject. Amy the object. Action- loves.

Passive: Amy is loved by Steve. Amy is the subject. Amy is not doing the action.

I found it interesting that Grammar Girls states that using passive voice is not always incorrect.  In many of my classes, attention and focus has mostly been on writing in active voice and tightening sentences, which usually results in using active voice. With the focus on active voice usage, I assumed that there was little to no viability to passive voice usage. It has broadened my understanding in terms of proper applicability to each usage.  I found the article to be quite helpful and enlightening.

As I have opportunity, I would like to re-visit that site and peruse other areas of interest to further my education and self-knowledge.

Source: grammar.quickanddirtytips.com

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