Passive Voice vs. Active Voice

I uploaded a page of my chapter into an editing program I had considered purchasing. In less than thirty seconds, the screen blinked and then displayed this message: Be careful not to rely on passive verbs in your writing.

Yikes!

Had I really written something so “non-exciting” that they actually called it passive?

Yes; I vaguely remembered that term. I decided to refresh my memory. Here’s what I found.

Let’s start with the basics: a verb is an action word.

Example: Run, cry, hit, sing.

Depending on how you word a sentence, a verb can be passive or active.

Example of active verb:  

Jon beat Peter in a game of chess.

Example of passive verb:

Jon was beaten by Peter.

In the first example, the subject of the sentence (Jon) is doing the action. In the second, something is done to the subject.

The term voice refers to these two different ways of using verbs.

Passive voice is used most often in formal documents, research papers, and so on.

Active voice is used most often in creative writing (fiction).

Passive verbs are broken down into: present simple, present continuous, present perfect, past simple, past continuous, past perfect, future, and future perfect. There are good examples of all of these on the internet, so I won’t go into each here. 

Especially since my purpose here is to remind those of us writing fiction, that we need to make our writing exciting by using action verbs (active voice).

No; I didn’t purchase the editing program. But its blinking screen and its warning in red CAPITAL LETTERS will be forever etched in this writer’s brain.

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