How to Bring Life to Your Writing: Active vs Passive Voice

How to Bring Life to Your Writing: Active vs Passive Voice
February 2, 2018 1 Comment Editing, For Authors, Writing Advice, Writing Advice Barbara Tyree

“Who would have thought what you learned in English class would come back to haunt you?”

Many years ago, my friend and I had this English teacher, Mrs. Diller. We had fun in that class and at the time going over grammer technique was becoming tedious but the required reading assignments was in fact more fun as I loved to read. Don’t get me wrong, English was my favorite subject however, I never imagined I would have to dig into my brain and remember what I learned all those years ago until I started writing novels.

As writers, we cannot just put anything down on paper or on the computer screen. When we work our magic, tell our story everything needs be be concise, in order, proper English, otherwise the readers would not want to read out work!

“You’ve got to be kidding me?!”

At the top of your head, can you remember the difference between active and passive voice? I have to admit this one stumps me at times without thinking. I can be so wrapped up in the action of my story that I forget about the dreaded active and passive voice. Sometimes I catch it when I’m editing my final draft and then there are times when one mistake slips by me and my editor  will find the mishap.

So let’s take them one at a time and begin with active voice. In simple terms, the subject is doing the action. Passive voice is the predicate or the target of the action.(For more information visit: In this sentence: James aimed his weapon directly towards his target, Bill Connors. James is the subject, therefore he is doing the action and he is doing it to Bill Connors.

“Sounds easy…so why do we blunder?”

With that simple clarification it sounds so simple, right? But why is it that so many of us make the mistake of using active and passive voice at the wrong times?  If you go to their website gives you a very  clear and concise explanation of the two words. Being if you are writing a sentence using active voice, the subject is the action; and if you are writing a sentence using passive voice, the subject is receiving the action.

In J.K. Allen’s article, How To Edit, she offers great advice on editing your final draft of your manuscript/novel. One of those things to look for is passive voice. She offers a trick. If you an put “by zombies” at the end of your sentence you need to make you sentence more active. That’s something I will need to remember. Thank you, J.K. Allen!

One Final Word, My Friends

Another interesting tidbit about passive voice sentences; it’s easy for the writer to mistakenly leave out the person or thing doing the action. Passive voice can also be awkward, vague, or too wordy.

Barbara Tyree is the author of the soon-to-be published mystery/thriller novel Dangerous Liaisons and is in the process of perfecting the final drafts of three other novels including the sequel to Dangerous Liaisons.

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