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17

You can effectively use passive voice when the action is more important than the actor. For example, if you were writing about the effect of pollutants on a river, you might introduce the facts in the passive voice, because in terms of the effects, it doesn't MATTER who did the action: "The pollutants were released into the lake in 1979. Significant ...


13

Mark the passive use in your text. Read them aloud. Change the sentences to active. Read them aloud. What sounds better? With the passive form it is harder to visualize your story to your reader - less "action". "Philip was killed by Martin." sounds less dramatic than "Martin killed Philip". What picture do you want to create in the head of the reader? ...


8

In fiction, I find active voice will usually lead to a more direct connection from the characters and action to the reader. Passive voice can be useful when the writer wants to demonstrate emotional detachment or distance. Re-casting a passive sentence in the active voice can occasionally lead to a convoluted mess; in these cases, I'd just write the sentence ...


6

What do you want to emphasize? If it's the person doing the action, by all means use active voice. "Heinrich Schliemann ate a sandwich" emphasizes Schliemann, while "the sandwich was eaten by Heinrich Schliemann" emphasizes the sandwich. Contrast this with "Heinrich Schliemann excavated Troy", which seems more at home in a biography of Herr Schliemann, ...


4

Passive voice is not exactly incorrect. There is no rule against. But your readers will usually put down a book filled with passive voice. A passive voice sentence is usually extremely boring. Is that what you want? The problem isn't so much passive voice. The problem is really "weak sentences." It just so happens that 90+% of the time that you find a ...


4

Go with your gut. Quit worrying about voice. Get it down on paper, walk away, come back and revise it, find a beta or pay an editor. Let your reader worry about the passive voice for the first draft. Tell the person to keep an eye out for it, and if your reader comes back with "yeah, this part sounded egregious," you can cut it. You're letting the perfect ...


3

I despise "his or her." It's so bad, it should be unconstitutional. Randomly switching "his" and "her" from sentence to sentence is almost as bad. If you're making a general statement, and you think exclusively using "his" is sexist, then use the plural. Fighters fight for the pleasure of the spectator, against their own safety.


2

Here's how I think about all writing rules that tell me what I should or should not do: What is the effect of doing this? How does it affect the reader? When would I want those effects? When would I not want them? What effects do I want to create right now? So what are the effects of passive voice? Passive voice deemphasizes, hides, or ignores the actor and ...


2

Forget any rules you've heard about passive voice! Instead, learn exactly what is happening when you use a passive voice, and use it well. How do you learn? Through close reading! A good writer is able to predict the range of inferences stirred up in a reader by her sentences. Here's an example: The officer hit Jeff. --VS-- Jeff was hit by the officer. ...


2

I have written many scientific papers using first person singular and have not had any problems from editors. Many physics journals encourage it as a matter of fact. I will admit that most papers unfortunately do use this convention. Also, as mentioned, when some papers do use first person, they use plural even if there is only one author. I also use "we" ...


1

I've struggled with this in my technical writing. When I read a technical article entirely in the passive voice, it feels like the writers are either: a) just doing what everyone else does, or b) trying to sound more authoritative than they are. In either case, it certainly comes across as dry. On the other hand, if I'm writing a paper on something I alone ...


1

I agree with Kate, it is best used when you are trying to illustrate something where the actors are less important than the action being performed. The best analogy I can come up with is "cold and impersonal". So it's probably best used when writing reports. But, like Kate said, if you need to place emphasis on the actor(s) involved, then it is better to ...


1

Change something else in the sentence. A fighter is someone who fights for the pleasure of spectators, against his or her own safety. A fighter is someone who fights for the pleasure of the audience, against his or her own safety.


1

I do not know the etymological or cultural roots of using the passive voice/ third person. However, the reason we were given [the reason they gave us], and that sounded to us as perfectly understandable, was that active voice unnecessarily [and undesirably] shifts the focus onto an extraneous element, at least in some instances. Consider these: "An ...



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