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4-1 Active Voice or Passive Voice

(c) 2009 by Mona Leeson Vanek

Contributed by Edita A. Petrick

As you decide whether to use active voice or passive voice in your writing, Edita A. Petrick shares an easy way to distinguish between which you're using. Edita says, "I found this simple (below) for passive writing and voice very useful."

In simple terms, PASSIVE style presents character's action as: *** he was running, he was thinking, she is wondering, etc.

This style of writing gives the reader an undesirable degree of freedom to DOUBT everything the character does. This translates into doubting the writer's presentation.

With this style, the reader's automatic response is: WAS he...really? IS she...really? (running, thinking, wondering)

The reader is skeptical -- and free to question the writer's intent. So the writer is giving away his control over his character's action.

In ACTIVE style, the character's action is given: *** he ran, he thought, she wondered/she wonders.

The reader has only one response/reaction -- and that's the one the writer wants him to have: WHY did he run...? Why did he think that...? Why did she wonder...?"

That's precisely WHAT the writer wants to do - engage reader's curiosity (not doubt.) When the reader asks "WHY" -- (because if "was" is absent from his style, the reader won't have the freedom to use it to fling it back at the writer - Was he now, really?) -- he's ENGAGED in the story, participating, and will read on...and on, and on. WHY -- is that key word that the writer wants his readership to ask, not "WHY" is what drives the novel, its characters' through action and their motives.

To learn more, The Capital Community College Foundation sponsors The Guide to Writing and Grammar: Links will take you to whatever you want to know.

Chapter 9 - Querying and Related Issues:

Next, 4-2, Grammar Tutor Online:

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