Don’t be a Passivist


Heh heh. I thought that might get your attention. Now, are you here because of the photo, the guns, or to tell me I’ve misspelled pacifist?

Don’t worry. I’m not promoting violence, at least not that kind. I am promoting a little aggression toward the passive voice.

PP is for Passive Voice

What is passive voice?

Passive voice occurs when the subject and the object of the sentence get switched so the subject is receiving the action and not performing it. When this happens the verb switches from active to passive. Let’s look at an example.

Active Voice

Sally heard the familiar tune of a lullaby.

Passive Voice

The familiar tune of a lullaby could be heard by Sally.

“Sally” and “tune” are the subject and object of the sentence, respectively. When using passive voice, the active verb “heard” switches to the passive form “could be heard.” Do you see how switching to passive voice weakens and lengthens the sentence?

Let’s look at the opening line to a popular novel.

“They shoot the white girl first.” Paradise by Toni Morrison

The white girl was shot by them first.

It doesn’t pack the same punch does it?

Using passive voice isn’t incorrect grammar usage, but using active voice is often a better choice.  Click on the article Active Voice Versus Passive Voice by Grammar Girl for more information.



Now you’re armed and dangerous. If your writing isn’t strong, clear or concise, analyze it for the use of passive voice.

Go on. Get trigger happy. Pull out your literary pistol and pick off those passive verbs one at a time.

To see what other A to Z participants are blogging about this month, please click here to link to their blogs.


9 thoughts on “Don’t be a Passivist”

  1. This is what I’m slowly, painfully, going through my manuscript to do – eliminate the passive. It’s tedious enough that I’m trying my best to stop doing it in the first place. Next manuscript will be perfect first time!
    Haha. Right. 😉

  2. Man, I’m SO bad at using active voice. I’ve gotten a lot better at using it during action scenes, but once it gets into descriptions and calmer scenes, I find myself automatically slipping into passive. I think I just like the flow better. But you’re right — active definitely makes for a more dynamic reading experience!

  3. Hi Melissa, I love this post! Feeling very armed and dangerous. 🙂 I think all of us struggle with the passive voice. I continue to look for it in my own writing!

  4. I’ve gotten much better using active voice. When I first started my blog, I was notorious for using passive voice. Thank goodness I’ve learned a thing or two. Great post, Melissa. 🙂 Eva

Don't be shy! I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s