Sunday, November 28, 2010

Voice, Part 10: Changing Passive to Active, Method 5

A final way of changing passive to active voice is to simply delete the passive verb. While you will not always be able to use this method, you should be on the lookout for such opportunities. Examples:

Passive: You are advised that you owe JoJo Management, Inc. $1,200 in rent.
Active: You owe JoJo Management, Inc. $1,200 in rent.

Passive: It was brought to my attention that you are submitting your reports late.
Active: You are submitting your reports late.

Passive: You are requested to direct your comments to
Active: Please direct your comments to

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Voice, Part 9: Changing Passive to Active, Method 4

You can also change passive to active voice by making the passive verb an adjective. Examples:

Passive: We will speak with the team that has been deployed.
Active: We will speak with the deployed team.

Passive: Farah has been trained as a researcher.
Active: Farah is a trained researcher.

Passive: The company allows travel to that country only for staff who have been vaccinated.
Active: The company allows travel to that country only for vaccinated staff.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Voice, Part 8: Changing Passive to Active, Method 3

A third way of changing passive to active voice is to make the passive verb a noun:

Passive: You will be interviewed tomorrow.
Active: Your interview occurs tomorrow.

Passive: The way people are treated is the way that they might treat others.
Active: The treatment people receive dictates the treatment they might give.

Passive: Our division will be audited tomorrow.
Active: Our division audit is tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Voice, Part 7: Changing Passive to Active, Method 2

The first method for changing passive to active voice creates a change of subject:

The film was given good reviews. (The subject is film.)
The critics gave the film good reviews. (The subject is now critics.)

Another way to change passive voice to active is to change the verb instead of the subject:

The film received good reviews.

This method is more challenging because it requires the writer to concoct a different word. It is the choice of fluent technical writers, who often give human characteristics to inanimate objects to keep an active style. Examples:

The smartphone communicates throughout the continent.
This document describes the protocol of the Rebop7 System.
The assembly requires a licensed technician.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Voice, Part 6: Changing Passive to Active, Method 1

You have several ways of changing a passive construction to an active one. The first and most common method is to place the doer before the action. Examples:

Passive: Pratash was rewarded by Microsoft for his exceptional service.

Active: Microsoft rewarded Pratash for his exceptional service.

Passive: Jason was called during the night. (Here the doer is hidden.)

Active: Jason’s manager called him during the night. (The doer is now revealed.)

Monday, November 08, 2010

Voice, Part 5: When Active Voice Works

If, as I noted in the previous post, passive voice has a place in excellent writing, then when is active voice preferable? Three main considerations often stand out: conciseness, clarity, and fluency.

1. Conciseness. In the example below, active voice achieves greater economy.

Passive: It was noted by Caroline that security precautions which were created in the Bostick plant will not be followed by the Shelling plant. (24 words)

Active: Caroline noted that the Shelling plant will not follow the security precautions that the Bostick plant created. (17 words)

2. Clarity. The next example shows how active voice achieves greater transparency.

Passive: Although dissent was heard, a decision was made that the operation be terminated.

Active: Although the production manager dissented, the safety director decided to terminate the operation.

3. Fluency. In this example, the active is preferable because it sounds more like natural speech.

Passive: Consideration will be given to candidates to be interviewed if the qualifications are met.

Active: The company will consider interviewing qualified candidates.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Voice, Part 4: When Passive Voice Works

Passive voice has its merits. Here are three cases when writing in passive voice might improve a sentence.

1. The doer is obvious to the reader. In the example below, the assumption is that readers know who the doer is, so mentioning the doer is unnecessary.

Active: The law requires you to obey the speed limit.

Passive: You are required to obey the speed limit.

2. The doer is unimportant. In this next example, the readers care more about the resolving the sanitation problem that who resolved it:

Active: The janitor emptied the trash.

Passive: The trash was emptied.

3. The doer should be spared recognition. This final example clearly illustrates how passive voice shows greater respect to the errant employee:

Active: Hector made a mistake in the proposal.

Passive: A mistake was made in the proposal.

Understanding when to use active and passive voice will endow the writer with an invaluable tool for expressing ideas.