- Lowers and softens impact
- Distance the reader by forcing her to reorganize the sentence into SVO (Subject+Verb+Object)
- Uses 30% more words than active voice
- Lays flat and dull on the page
In active voice the subject acts.
In passive voice, the action is done TO the subject.
Active: The sleuth caught the killer.
Passive: The killer was caught by the sleuth.
To Find Passive Voice – Watch for this combination in structures:
- a form of the verb “to be” (is, am are, was, were, be, been or being)
- a participle or past participle (-ing and –ed verbs)
- a prepositional phrase beginning with by (written or implied)
The rules were changed by the boss.
The rules were changed. (by an implied someone)
Using WAS, ING’s and TO’s (participles or infinitives) result in passive constructions that distance the reader from the action.
- Considering her options, Jane tried to think of a way to grant the snake freedom without actually touching it. One of the solutions she considered was barbecue tongs, but that would mean lifting the shoe box edge high enough for the slithery little monster to make an escape, so that was abandoned.
- Jane considered her options. How the heck could she grant the snake freedom without actually touching it? She could use barbecue tongs, but that would mean lifting the shoe box edge high enough for the slithery little monster to escape. No, she wouldn’t try the tongs.
Write your story any way you can, but when you have the meat on the platter, trim the fat. Cut back on structures that distance your reader. Garnish with action and pull your readers in.