Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Passive voice

I've been thinking about passive voice. First of all, what is it? It always avoids the first person. Passive voice can weaken your writing. But there are times when you NEED passive voice. When it's not important for the reader to know who, then it is a time to write in passive voice. Always try to be your reader to determine if you need active voice or passive voice. I have discovered that, sometimes writing in the passive voice can help the story to move like I want it to. A bit faster. If your readers don't need to know who or what is responsible for the action, then passive voice can help your story. Of course most of the time we need to write active.

I don't even worry about this on my first draft. Only in revisions do I decide, if a particular sentence would be better off in active or passive voice. Isn't it true that as we revise, that's when we look for clearness of expression? I always look for the word, by. If I see it, then I know the sentence is probably passive. Not always, but if I see that word, I really study that sentence to see if it needs turning around to make it active. Or if it is okay left alone. You have to be able to recognize when it's okay to leave a sentence in passive voice, and when it's not. :)

19 comments:

  1. Exactly. There are times when passive voice is a necessity, but when it replaces active voice in a spot where it isn't needed, it's disaster!

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  2. Agreed, and it is our job to KNOW, THAT WE KNOW, THAT WE KNOW, when to use it. :)

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  3. When I read, passive here and there doesn't bother me. It's when I read something and it's everywhere that it really stands out.
    I'm like you. I don't worry about this in a first draft.

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  4. I don't think we'd get very far on our first drafts if we tried to make them perfect as we went along. Passive voice is one thing I look for in my edits.

    Lynnette Labelle
    http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

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  5. P.J., I have critiqued a lot of MS's where passive writing is all over the place. That is not a good thing. But a little where it's needed is fine. Agreed! :)

    Lynnette, You're right, we wouldn't, though I know writers that revise as they go along on their first draft. :)

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  6. Good thoughts today. I tend to write more passive voice in my first draft....then I have to weed through and clean it up.

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  7. Great post! I think we have to train ourselves to write actively and weed out the passive later. And it is needed sometimes.

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  8. Tess, Yeah, I wish I could write a perfect story on my first draft. Just another one one my dreams. :)

    Elana, exactly! When I first started writing, seriously writing passive was one of my BIGGEST problems. Now,not so much. :)

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  9. I think flexibility is the key. Know the rule, and then know when you want to break it.

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  10. Yeah, but prepublished authors can't break rules, Davin. NONE! :)

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  11. Amen! I think the important thing is to not become so married to the Rules that it stifles the story and your creativity. :D

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  12. I try to listen carefully for the passive voice in my edits. I hate that I do that.

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  13. Danyelle, You're right. The story you tell is what's important. If you hold back, then your story won't reach its full potential. :)

    T.Anne, Ahh, that we could write the perfect story, the first time around. :)

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  14. This post was written by Robyn! ;-) - my passive voice for the day.

    Writing the perfect story the first time around sounds great!!! Does anyone know of anyone who has accomplished that?

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  15. I don't know about the perfect story the first time around, but Alan Gratz writes without a crit group. Or he use to anyway. I think his wife crits for him and maybe a friend but that's about it. One of his first books was written and revised and submitted in about six months.:)

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  16. My first draft is pretty much all passive voice. Then I have to go through on a cease and desist mission to kill it all. I agree that you have to use it sparingly, but it's okay to use a bit! It does help propel the story forward by removing the decorators that are prettier and more precise, but not as clippy...if that makes sense.

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  17. Great way to say it Lauren! :)

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  18. Even though Davin recently called me a metallic balloon, I agree with his comment.

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