Monday, August 23, 2010
Uses of the Passive Voice
The passive voice can sound more authoritive and less demanding. For example: “Swimming is not allowed here.” This passive voice is a statement of fact and gains authority because of the lack of emotion attached. By comparison: “You must not swim here.” This active voice adds a demanding tone. It might work for a mother scolding her child, but if that’s not the tone you want to achieve, then the passive might be your answer.
The passive voice changes the emphasis in a sentence. For example, “1000 plastic balls are needed to fill the pit.” The emphasis here is on the number of plastic balls. Compare with, “The pit needs 1000 plastic balls to fill it.” The pit is the emphasis in this active sentence.
The passive voice de-emphasises the cause of the action. For example, “Isabella was attacked at midnight.” We may not wish to reveal who attacked poor Isabella. Sometimes we wish to emphasise the action more than the person behind the action. For example, “The cure for the common cold was discovered in 2051.” The name of the person behind the discovery may not be important to your story.
The passive voice hides blame. For example: “The totals were placed in the wrong column.”
Can you think of other examples of acceptable use of the passive voice? Do you try to avoid all instances of the passive voice? What are some things you look for when deciding to use a passive voice?