Writing with an active voice is an ideal way to give your story more energy and a direct feel. This keeps the reader dialed into the story. As a result, many sources agree it is best to write with an active voice. The issue is they do not quite explain how to write in the active voice.
The active voice simply means the subject of the sentence is performing the verb. It is a lot less complicated than some writers make it seem.
With a few tips and tricks, you will find yourself writing in the active voice in no time. Once you get it down it will become like second nature.
Understand Writing With Active Voice
Before I can give some tips to write in the active voice you must understand what the active voice is. It is one thing to understand the definition and another to be able to understand what it looks like. Here are some examples of sentences written in the active voice.
- I caught the dog.
- The school discovered I cheated.
- He received the package.
- You are lying.
In all these examples the verb is being performed by the subject of the sentence. This is ideal. Here are the same sentences are given in the passive voice.
- The dog was caught by me.
- It was discovered by the school that I cheated.
- The package was received by him.
- A lie is being told by you.
As you can see in these sentences the subject of the sentence is not the one performing the verb. As a result, these sentences are less clear and concise. In all these cases, the passive sentence is longer than the active one.
This is not too distracting in short sentences like this, but in longer ones, this can cause even more confusion. On top of that, they are more engaging to read.
Tips For Writing With Active Voice
The best tip to write in the active voice is to start the sentence with the subject. This makes it a lot easier for the rest of the sentence to fall into place. A lot of passive sentences come as a result of the subject is closer to the end.
Another good practice for writing in the active voice would be limiting the word count of each sentence. In general, the passive voice comes out more when you are trying to extend out a sentence. By making changes to shorten your sentences you may make them active in the process.
Clues a Sentence is Written With Passive Voice
One good indicator that a sentence is written with a passive voice is the word “was”. The word did not automatically mean a sentence is passive. However, more times than not the word “was” implies a passive sentence so take a closer look at sentences that include it. Removing the word “was” is an easy way to incorporate a more active voice in writing. This also goes for “were” and the present tense “to be”.
Words ending in “ing” are also more likely to be included in passive sentences, however, this is not always the case. Thes gerunds and present participles can be a sign a sentence is past tense, but that is by no means an automatic sign. You still have to check if the subject is performing the verb.
A third clue is a word “by” when referring to who or what did something. That is because in many sentences including “by” the subject is not performing the verb.
All of these are simply hints. You always have to make sure the subject is not acting as the verb. There are exceptions to every rule.
When to Write in the Passive Voice
Speaking of exceptions to rules, if anyone ever told you the active voice is always better than the passive voice they were wrong. You should not blindly erase all of the passive voice from your writing. There are some cases where it is still effective.
When you are trying to emphasize the action it is a good idea to use the passive voice. This extends to situations where you want to emphasize the lack of importance of the subject. Think of it as drawing attention away from the subject.
This also extends to scenarios where the writer wants to keep the actor of an action a mystery. There are scenarios where it is ideal not to name the subject.
The passive voice can also sound more authoritative.
The idea is to make sure your choice to write in the active voice is an active choice.
Writing with an active voice is a great way to make your story more lively and cut down on words in the process. There are certain situations where you want to avoid the active voices, but in most cases, the active voice is best.
As with anything in writing you do not just want to write with the active voice because I said it improves your writing. Be sure to read your writing and decide what works best for your style.