Should I use passive voice or not?


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Thread: Should I use passive voice or not?

  1. #1

    Should I use passive voice or not?

    In my Rubiks World novel I have some sentences in passive voice. The word grammar checker always tells me to rewrite it in active voice. However I don't really think that in any of these cases it is wrong to use the passive voice and that in some it is wrong to use the active voice.

    Here are the sentences in passive voice:

    The control is done a little later than the conditionals. (This is related to the pregnancy and adult size control study)

    Every time something new is discovered in math and science or something new is made the cubes rotate jobs. (This is related to the empire that a group called "The Cubes" has formed)


    In the first one it is a compound subject with the 2 subjects being control and conditionals. I separated it with the passive "is done" because I wanted to compare the 2 time-wise. Plus this is a note about the study since this isn't your normal control study(where control and conditionals are done at the same time). Thus I don't think this is a grammar error.

    In the second one I think it is wrong to use the active voice since unless you know who discovered something you don't usually say "A discovered B" where A is someone that discovered something and B is the thing that was discovered but rather something like "B was discovered in C" where once again B is what was discovered and C is the time at which it was discovered or "B has been discovered". The second and third ones are in passive voice but the first one is in active voice.

    So should I change these sentences to active voice or just leave them in passive voice?

  2. #2
    Others here besides me have given the same advice - write it the way you want/need to, if you can get a publisher/agent to buy it you're okay. If you keep getting the same advice about it, fix it. It's your novel, it's your choice.
    "Self-righteousness never straddles the political fence."

    Midnightpoet


    "The bible says to love your neighbor. It's obvious that over the centuries it has been interpreted as the opposite."
    (sarcasm alert)

    Midnightpoet


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  3. #3
    Those are fine.
    A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking. Steven Wright

  4. #4
    agree with above. No one will notice a passive. Do what you think is right.

    But, can the word "happens" replace "is done"?

    The control happens after the conditionals.

    A comma might help the second sentence (but right, keep the passive):

    Whenever something new is discovered in math and science or something new is made, the cubes rotate jobs.
    Looking for people to beta a chapter or more of my book Modern Punctuation and Grammar: Tools for Better Writing. Go Hidden Content
    As always, useful information you can't find anywhere else.

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  5. #5
    If you want to emphasize the passivity of the subject or unintentionality of an act, use passive voice. See About Hammer & Tongs on the Hammer & Tongs page of my website. You don't appear to need to do either of those, so I'd change it. I'd also change those empty verbs.

    The control is done a little later than the conditionals.
    Technicians complete the control a little later than the conditionals.

    Often you can eliminate passive voice by "nouning" the verbs:

    Every time something new is discovered in math and science or something new is made the cubes rotate jobs.
    With each new discovery or invention in math and science, the cubes rotate jobs.
    John Oberon
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  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    No one will notice a passive.
    As a grammatical technicality, probably not. However, good use of active voice can be the difference between writing that is stuffy and slow, and writing that engages the reader and draws them in. Certainly not every sentence has to (or should) be in active voice, but active voice certainly has value in good writing.
    "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin

    "I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story." - Tom Clancy

  7. #7
    Here's the problem with excessive passive voice: it deadens your story. Which would you find more interesting, a story where things constantly happen to your characters, or a story where your characters constantly try to make things happen? There is no comparison. In any good story, the characters set goals they try to realize, whether it's love, money, or revenge, and the conflicts that arise in the process of that realization is the heart of a good story. But passive voice mutes all that, the characters become powerless, and the focus changes from the personalities and desires driving the action to events happening to the characters.

    If you WANT to convey powerlessness or passivity, say from the perspective of a girl who is kidnapped, then passive voice is your ticket, and by all means write that she was painfully bound by zip-ties, gagged, and dumped into the trunk of a car. But if you want to convey greedy impatience and brutality on part of the kidnappers, then active voice is the way, and they zip-tied her wrists together, crammed a rag in her mouth, and threw her into the trunk.
    John Oberon
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  8. #8
    What is the focus? The control or the ones doing the controlling? If it's the former, you want the passive voice; if it's the latter, you want the active voice. Are the new discoveries the focus or the Cubes? Same consideration.

    The passive voice is not inherently bad. Most of your sentences should be in the active voice naturally.


  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by caters View Post
    In my Rubiks World novel I have some sentences in passive voice. The word grammar checker always tells me to rewrite it in active voice. However I don't really think that in any of these cases it is wrong to use the passive voice and that in some it is wrong to use the active voice.

    Here are the sentences in passive voice:

    The control is done a little later than the conditionals. (This is related to the pregnancy and adult size control study)

    Every time something new is discovered in math and science or something new is made the cubes rotate jobs. (This is related to the empire that a group called "The Cubes" has formed)


    In the first one it is a compound subject with the 2 subjects being control and conditionals. I separated it with the passive "is done" because I wanted to compare the 2 time-wise. Plus this is a note about the study since this isn't your normal control study(where control and conditionals are done at the same time). Thus I don't think this is a grammar error.

    In the second one I think it is wrong to use the active voice since unless you know who discovered something you don't usually say "A discovered B" where A is someone that discovered something and B is the thing that was discovered but rather something like "B was discovered in C" where once again B is what was discovered and C is the time at which it was discovered or "B has been discovered". The second and third ones are in passive voice but the first one is in active voice.

    So should I change these sentences to active voice or just leave them in passive voice?

    I think it would help if you gave a little context. Looking at individual sentences doesn't show if they are jarring or awkward in any way.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    agree with above. No one will notice a passive. Do what you think is right.

    But, can the word "happens" replace "is done"?

    The control happens after the conditionals.

    A comma might help the second sentence (but right, keep the passive):

    Whenever something new is discovered in math and science or something new is made, the cubes rotate jobs.
    Even better : Whenever something new is discovered in math and science, or something new is made, the cubes rotate jobs.

    A comma after "science" I think is needed.

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