One of the biggest issues I come across as an editor is authors who write in a passive voice. When authors choose to write passively speaking it tells your readers two things about you as a writer. First, you are not polished. Why? To write in passive voice is what I call the easy way out. Anyone can use the word ‘was’ or ‘were’ following by a weak ‘ing’ verb. When you write in this manner your subject is being acted upon rather than doing the action. Consider these examples.
- The family was going to Disneyland for Christmas.
The above example is written passively. In fact, if you review your own writing and use the word search tool in Microsoft Word and search for the word ‘was’ you will find your passive voice sentences. To modify and enhance your writing omit the word ‘was’ and change it to past tense along with the weak ‘ing’ verb.
Now consider the rewrite of the above sentence.
- The family went to Disneyland for Christmas.
To identify the rest of your passive sentences anytime you use the form of ‘be’ you wrote in the passive voice. The forms of ‘be’ are:
- the simple form: be.
- the -ing participle form: being.
- the past participle: been.
- the first person singular present tense form: am.
- the third person present tense (-s) form: is.
- the plural present tense form: are.
- the singular past tense form: was.
- the plural past tense form: were.
Eliminate passive voice by making the subject do the action. You can shift the focus of the sentence from the direct or indirect object to the actor. For example, you can transform the following sentence from passive to active voice.
Passive: The tree was cut down by the man.
Active: The man cut down the tree.
However, sometimes the passive voice is preferable. When the person or the object being acted upon is more important than the doer, you should use passive voice.
Example: President Trump was heckled today.
In the above example, you want to focus on the President.