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The Passive Voice

Posted by tawnykit on 2007.04.27 at 19:45
Current Location: my room
Personal Tone: busybusy
Current Inspiration: Evanescence: Field of Innocence
As it just so happens, I like the passive voice.

It would appear, however, that many other people don't. My English teacher forever frowns upon it, and I've heard other people dismiss it, as well.

And, in certain circumstances, I even agree with them. For example, if you're writing an action sequence -- say, a fight -- keeping your descriptions in the active voice makes for a livelier, more interesting scene than the passive voice would.

ACTIVE: The club struck her over the head, and darkness enfolded her vision as she fell to the ground.
PASSIVE: She was struck over the head by the club, and her vision was enfolded by darkness as she fell to the ground.

But still. I really, really like the passive voice, and I know that there are some instances in which it's okay -- or even better -- to use passive instead of active.

I don't, however, know what those instances are. If anyone would care to explain to me the merits of one over the other, and in what situation it's best to use which voice, I would greatly appreciate it.


aldecoary at 2007-04-28 00:49 (UTC) (Link)
Passive is preferable in many scientific documents, actually, where the doer of the action is less important than the action itself.

In more creative documents, however, passive is used when the doer of the action is unknown. It is also preferable if you are trying to emphasize the action part, such as being struck over the head, or de-emphasize the importance of the actor.

But, as mentioned, it is less active, less specific, more wordy/awkward/confusing, and less attached to the one doing the action--someone/thing has something acted upon them instead of someone doing an action.

Because you ought to know who said or did something in papers, teachers have often stressed it to the point of not mentioning passive voice's merits. But as in anything, overuse it and you lose its effectiveness.

If you want more, I can look it up when I return home. This is all that's currently in my brain. Hope it helps.
tawnykit at 2007-04-28 19:41 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks. If you happen to think of it, and it's not too much trouble, I wouldn't mind knowing more, but don't trouble yourself. This is very useful! :)
nachzes at 2007-04-28 14:27 (UTC) (Link)
Depends what tone you're trying to create, I think. For example, if you're trying to make your character seem helpless/subservient/etc, use passive voice a lot, expecially at said moments. Really, I use grammar for characterization a lot. (Heh.)
tawnykit at 2007-04-28 19:08 (UTC) (Link)
Hm, good point. I'll keep that in mind. Thanks!
(Deleted comment)
tawnykit at 2007-06-01 10:40 (UTC) (Link)
Well, yes, that was the point I was making. Sometimes active really does sound better (action sequences like the example I gave are a prime example). But passive works so well for other things, too, and I wanted more examples. You're right; the POV of your piece is what really decides it (that and the mood you want in the piece).

And woah woah woah woah, who says I'm done with fanfiction?! I'm just not having time to write much of anything of late. *sigh* (Which fandom are you from . . .? *writes for several*) And yes, of course you can friend me. I never say no to new friends. ^_^ (Don't be insulted if I don't return the favor right away; I'm in a big hurry at the moment and I always need to pick a new color scheme when I friend someone, and that takes awhile. I'll do it when I get home from work today.)
(Deleted comment)
tawnykit at 2007-06-03 17:24 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, okay. That's aldecoary. Aw, shucks, I'm turning all red. ;)
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