The Organized Runner

Passive Voice Makes You Sound Slimy

Passive Voice Makes You Sound Slimy

Whenever I read something written in passive voice, it makes me think of politicians. “Mistakes were made” is the most political thing to say, and it’s a common example for explaining passive voice.

What is passive voice? It’s when you hide the subject of the sentence; you’re hiding who is one taking the action described by the verb. Examples:

Mistakes were made.

Lives were lost.

The snacks were eaten.

All of the sentences leave you with questions. Who made the mistakes? Whose lives were lost? Who ate the snacks?

Passive voice implies shirked responsibility. Instead of being clear, the author or speaker is intentionally hiding a key piece of information by choosing passive voice over active voice.

Active voice forces you to reveal the subject, giving the reader/listener clarity.

I made a mistake.

The soldiers lost their lives.

Cameron ate all the snacks.

In my own writing, I sometimes throw in passive voice sentences when I’m being lazy or vague and can’t fully form the idea I’m trying to get across. You can also trick yourself into thinking passive voice sounds more professional or academic, but it usually isn’t.

Challenge yourself to be clear and eliminate passive voice from your writing.


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