Real Words that Work - Passive is, well, passive

By Patricia Davies, President, Patricia Davies Communications

Passive is, well, passive
Almost no one in my workshops remembers what the passive voice is, except those who have taken recent English-as-a-Second-Language training. Too bad, since continuing to use the passive voice keeps many people from writing clearly, concisely and with energy. A recap: In the passive voice, the subject is acted upon; in the active voice the subject acts. Here are some examples from my “passive” file.
  • It seems the application form was unable to be saved.
  • In some cases, what was required was to enhance the quality of the teaching staff.
Use the active voice whenever possible. The passive voice allows writers to be sloppy, leaving readers wondering who is doing what. The active voice takes fewer words and suggests movement forward, not pretentious backing-in to an action.  

  • Applicants couldn’t save their forms. 
  • Some teachers need to upgrade their skills.

Patricia Davies is an award-winning writer and editor, an Endorsed Education Provider (EEP) with IIBA®, and a regular panelist on the IIBA “Being a BA: Effective Communication Webinar (first Tuesday of every month). Have you got a writing question? Please email and we’ll try to address it in a future column or Webinar.