Active Voice and Passive Voice : When to Avoid It and When to Use It

Active voice and passive voice are two different ways of constructing sentences, and each has its own appropriate uses. Here’s a breakdown of when to avoid or use each voice:

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Active Voice:

Use active voice when the subject of the sentence is performing the action. It is generally more direct, clear, and concise.

Example: “John painted the picture.”

Use active voice to emphasize the doer of the action, especially when the doer is more important than the action itself.

Example: “The company’s CEO implemented the new policy.”

Use active voice when you want to create a sense of urgency or to make instructions more forceful.

Example: “Submit your application before the deadline.”

Use active voice in scientific or technical writing to maintain clarity and precision.

Example: “The researcher conducted the experiment.”

Passive Voice:

Use passive voice when the subject of the sentence is the receiver of the action, and you want to focus more on the action than the doer.

Example: “The picture was painted by John.”

Use passive voice to emphasize the result or the impact of an action, rather than the individual who performed it.

Example: “The new policy was implemented by the company’s CEO.”

Use passive voice when you don’t know the doer of the action, or when it is irrelevant or unknown.

Example: “The mistake was made.”

Use passive voice to soften the tone or avoid assigning blame.

Example: “Mistakes were made.”

When to Avoid Passive Voice

In general, try to avoid passive voice if it makes the sentence more wordy, unclear, or less engaging.

Avoid using passive voice excessively in a piece of writing, as it can make the text feel passive, dull, or lacking in clarity.

Avoid passive voice when it obscures responsibility or accountability.

When it makes the sentence more wordy or verbose.

When it creates ambiguity or confusion about who or what is performing the action.

When it lacks clarity or precision in conveying the intended meaning.

When it weakens the impact or urgency of the sentence.

When it obscures responsibility or accountability.

When it hinders the flow or readability of the text.

When it is used excessively, making the writing feel passive, dull, or lacking in engagement.

When there is a specific need to identify or emphasize the doer of the action.

When the active voice is more suitable for the specific genre or style of writing.

When the purpose is to provide clear instructions or directions.

Remember, while passive voice has its uses, it is generally recommended to prefer active voice for its directness, clarity, and engaging nature

When to Use Passive Voice

Use passive voice when it is appropriate to shift the focus away from the doer of the action and onto the action itself or the receiver of the action.

Use passive voice when you want to maintain objectivity or when the doer of the action is unknown or irrelevant.

In summary, active voice is generally preferred for its clarity and directness, but passive voice can be used strategically when you want to emphasize the action, focus on the receiver, or soften the tone.

Here are some specific situations when it is appropriate to use passive voice:

When the doer of the action is unknown or unimportant: If you don’t know who performed the action or if the doer is irrelevant to the context, passive voice can be used.

Example: “The car was stolen last night.”

When the focus is on the receiver of the action: If you want to emphasize the object or recipient of the action rather than the doer, passive voice can be effective.

Example: “The package was delivered to my doorstep.”

When discussing general truths or abstract concepts: Passive voice can be used to express ideas that are universally true or concepts that are not attributed to any specific doer.

Example: “Mistakes are made in life.”

When describing a process or procedure: Passive voice can be useful in providing step-by-step explanations or instructions without explicitly mentioning the doer.

Example: “The dough is rolled into a thin sheet.”

When intentionally avoiding assigning blame or responsibility: Passive voice can be employed to soften the tone and avoid directly accusing someone.

Example: “Mistakes were made.”

In scientific or technical writing: Passive voice is commonly used in these fields to maintain objectivity and focus on the experimental process or observations rather than the researcher.

Example: “The samples were analyzed using spectroscopy.”

Remember, while passive voice has its uses, it’s important to balance its usage with active voice to maintain clarity, engagement, and directness in your writing.

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