Tuesday, July 31, 2007

1.7--Passive Voice

A. Here’s the problem:
Where do I start? Passive voice is weaker than active, it clouds the issue of exactly who is performing the action of the verb, it’s used by people who want to be deliberately vague or evade responsibility—“mistakes were made”—and most of the time it sounds awkward. It is used legitimately only when the origin of the action is unknown or when a writer wishes to deliberately shift emphasis (e.g. in “The Hawaiian Islands were first visited by Captain Cook,” the focus is on the islands’ history).

B. What to do:
Ninety-eight percent of the time, simply rewrite the sentence in the active voice.

C. Example: The letter that was written by Darcy and given to Elizabeth the next day explained all his supposed cruelties and showed him in a better light.
Corrected Version: Darcy wrote a letter and gave it to Elizabeth the next day, explaining all his supposed cruelties and showing himself in a better light.

D. Now you try—write corrected versions of the following sentences.
1. Much time was spent together and Darcy’s love grew, he was infatuated.
2. But I still had my faith that this love would arise and happiness would be instilled.
E. For more information or additional practice, check the following sources:
http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/passive.htm (includes a quiz)
Strunk & White, pp. 18-19 (http://www.bartleby.com/141/ )