How to fix passive voice

How to fix passive voice in your writing?

Passive voice is what happens when the subject of a sentence is being acted upon instead of doing the acting. If that sounds weird, bare with me, as we walk through this example.

The bowling champion was defeated by Fred.

That's a really interesting sentence -- There's a bowling champion and Fred just took the title, but the way it reads can be kind of awkward. This sentence uses passive voice. Instead, we could rewrite this sentence to use the active voice.

Fred defeated the bowling champion.

This sentence is a little easier to comprehend, and when reading many words per minute, can help keep readers in the flow instead of breaking it. The contents of the sentence are still the same and the point that the sentence conveys has not changed.

If you read a sentence and can find yourself asking "Who did that?", you're probably writing that sentence with a passive voice.

Active voice augments your prose

Prose is a form of language that exhibits a natural flow. Good prose is easy to follow and conveys a message clearly. Good prose also tends to stay in the active voice instead of the passive voice. Let's look at another example.

The grill was started by Fred and the hotdogs were brought, too.

While gramatically correct, this sentence is difficult to read and leaves us with an unnecessary question: Who brought the hotdogs? We could write this in the active voice to provide more clarity to our reader.

Fred started the grill and he brought the hotdogs, too.

Alternatively, maybe Fred wasn't the one who brought the hotdogs.

Fred started the grill and Sophie brought the hotdogs.

Although these sentences are fundamentally very similar, the active voice helps clearly illustrate who is doing what.

A quick tip to help spot areas that may have passive voice

Look for the word "by" in your writing. "by James" is a great example. If James did the action and we were writing in the active voice, "by James" isn't needed. "James wrote the book" can be used instead of "The book was written by James."

How Bluejay helps catch passive voice

Our tool, Bluejay, helps you catch passive voice while writing. We won't bore you with the technical details, but here's a picture of our editor catching passive voice!

An example of BlueJay preemptively catching passive voice mistakes while writing

Best of all, BlueJay is free to use so you can catch mistakes around passive/active voice early and write your best book yet.