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Voice

The Terror of Voice

I like order. I love the comfort of a beautiful and functional Excel spreadsheet. I organize my CDs by genre and then alphabetically by artist. I eat three meals a day.

But my love of order sometimes butts heads with my love of writing. That’s because no matter how much attention I pay to following the rules of writing, I know that to produce writing that astounds readers—moving them, making them gasp, enticing them—I’ll have to include more than just correct writing.

Why is it important to use the active voice?*

When writers use the active voice, their words are direct; they use concrete verbs and clearly state the action being performed by the subject. In contrast, the passive voice is indirect; writers may use weak “to be” verbs (is, am, was, were, being, been) or present progressives (e. g., is working, is laughing), and the actor in the sentence is absent or disguised.

Identify when the active voice is preferable to the passive voice.

In general, you can make your writing more persuasive, clear, and concise by using the active voice rather than the passive voice. There are instances, however, when the passive voice is preferable to the active voice, as discussed below.