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How To Recognize Passive Voice

It's no secret that varying the sentence structure in your writing keeps your reader engaged; however, the conciseness of your writing is just as important, ensuring that the reader stays focus and thoroughly understands the content. This is typically achieved by using active voice, as opposed to passive voice. Distinguishing between the two voices may seem difficult, but these titbits should clarify what constitutes as being passive voice in writing.

Passive voice appears when an object is present in a sentence, and that object is placed at the beginning rather than at the end of the sentence. This creates a bit of obscurity in your writing, which will confuse the reader as to what the sentence is saying.

An example of passive voice would be as follows:

The car was driven by my sister.

Although this sentence may not cause much confusion, it could definitely be more clear, direct, and lively. The car is the object of the sentence, being placed at the beginning instead of "my sister," which is the true subject of the sentence. To create a more active sentence, it is appropriate to place the subject at the beginning, followed by the verb and then the object, which is the car.

In active voice, the sentence would then be:

My sister drove the car.

An important characteristic of passive sentences is the insertion of a "to be" verb, such as is, are, was, and were; however, it is important to note that this does not guarantee the sentence is passive. Active sentences can have "to be" verbs in them.

Although passive voice can be used in writing and speaking, it is generally discouraged and should not be overused. Next time you are proofreading your compositions, make sure to establish a clear voice to fully engage the reader.