Apr 27 2022

Active Voice vs Passive Voice in Essay Writing: What's the Difference?

Adela Belin photo Adela Belin Content strategist and writer
Writing Advice

Every type of writing spanning academic assignments, research proposals, movie or book reviews, newspaper articles, technical or scientific writing, and more requires a verb in the sentence to express an action being taken.

Essentially, we know that there are two types of voices in writing – active voice vs passive voice. Both voices have a different sentence structure, length, purpose, and tone of writing.

Now when you analyze your writing, you would be able to find specific sentences that pop out and leave a mark on the reader while some sentences remain bland and unengaging.

This will determine your active voice sentences and your passive voice sentences.

Original: SourceYou think to yourself, “how do I choose the right voice for my writing?”

What is Active Voice in Essay Writing

In a sentence, the active voice is used when the subject or person in this specific sentence is the one who is carrying out an action that was represented by the verb. The subject is always a noun or a pronoun and this voice is used to express information in a stronger, direct, clear, and easier to read way than passive voice sentences.

Active voice highlights a logical flow to your sentences and makes your writing feel alive and current – which is pivotal to use in your formal academic writing assignments to get top-scoring grades.

Limited Time Offer: 20% Discount on Custom Paper [Order Now]

What is Passive Voice in Essay Writing

The passive voice, in a sentence, is used to emphasize the action taken place by the subject according to the verb. In this, the passive phrase always contains a conjugated form of ‘to be’ and the past participle of the main verb.

Due to this, the passive sentences also include prepositions, which makes them longer and wordier than active voice sentences.

Active Voice vs Passive Voice

Now, let us understand the difference between active voice vs passive voice in writing.

The choice between using active voice vs passive voice in writing always comes down to the requirements that are suitable for the type of sentences you choose to write.

1. Usage

For most of the writing that you do, be it blogs, emails, different types of academic essays and more, an active voice is ideal to use for communicating and expressing your thoughts, facts, and ideas more clearly and efficiently. This way, your essay papers or other academic assessments stand out amongst the rest.

Use your judgment to write in an active voice if accuracy is not an important aspect, and always keep your readers in mind. In this case, academic writing teachers - ranging from middle school to college/universities, prefer reading your assignments in an active voice as it makes your arguments, thoughts, and sentence structures confident, brief and compelling.

However, there are a few exceptions to using passive voice

  • If the reader is aware of the subject;
  • In expository writing (where the primary goal is to provide an explanation or a context);
  • Crime reports, data analysis;
  • Scientific and technical writing.

Passive voice is majorly used while writing assignments that direct the reader's focus onto the specific action taking place rather than the subject. It is also used when you need an authoritative tone like on a banner or a sign on a bulletin board.

Passive voice is ideally used when the person involved in the action is not known and/or is insignificant. Similarly, if you are writing something that requires you to be objective with its solution and analysis – like a research paper, lab report, or newspaper article – using passive voice should be your go-to choice. This allows you to avoid personal pronouns, which in turn helps you present your analysis or information in an unbiased and coherent way.

However, if your writing is meant to engage your target audience, such as a novel, then writing your sentences with a passive voice will not only flatten your content and make your writing clumsy to read but your paper would also inherit all the extra words that would make your write-ups vague and too wordy.

2. Examples of active and passive voice

Every active voice sentence contains a form of action that is taking place by the subject. An interesting fact is that they can be written in any tense – past tense, present tense, past perfect tense, future tense, and more.

Active voice always emits a sense of agency and strength in your writing.

Here are some examples of active voice sentence structuring

  • Kaitlyn worked on her upcoming novel all day long.
  • Our professor will reveal this week’s surprise assignment.
  • The police know that the accused is a flight risk.
  • A baby monkey bit Sasha on her leg.
  • I presented my research thesis to the class.
  • Malek proposed the methods & principles by which each product could be analyzed.
  • We will ride a train to go to Switzerland.
  • I conducted a study for criminal psychology.
  • The gardener was planting the Hydrangeas.

Whereas, passive voice sentence structures are lengthier in words and are used when the subject or person is the recipient of an action. Passive voice in writing often conveys subtlety, submissiveness, and lack of engagement.

Moreover, just like active sentences, passive sentence structures do not need to be dependent on the verb, as they can occur in the past tense, the future tense, the subjunctive, etc.

Here are some examples of passive voice sentences

  • We were driven to Universal Studios by our professor.
  • Clara was persuaded to move to Toronto.
  • Jack was given two choices for the presentation topic.
  • The jobs were given to two people who had no experience in writing.
  • An old bike and a gun were found in the toolshed.
  • The moon was walked on by Neil Armstrong.
  • The candy was eaten by the lady in yellow.
  • Ballet dancing is a beloved activity in our class.
  • The concert will be enjoyed by us tomorrow.
  • Some new books were bought by me.

3. Changing passive voice to active voice

Unless you’re required to use passive voice, it is always beneficial to use active voice in your writing. That’s why overusing and misusing passive sentences can make your writing look sloppy, wordy and non-informative and you may even end up with more grammatical errors.

Here are a few ways to change your passive sentence into an active sentence

a. Identify the passive voice

In writing, the writer should choose their verb tenses, word choice and tonality of the content very carefully.

As you finish your draft, re-read it to identify sentences that could have been more concise, or framed in a better way to improve its readability. Ask yourself what is the action of the specific sentence, who is perpetrating this action.

That is your passive voice.

Passive voice or tone consists of a past, past participle or future tense and generally the auxiliary word ‘to be’ is an indication of a passive sentence. It always refers to action not being addressed directly.

b. Remove the auxiliary verb

It's best to remove the auxiliary verb from your sentences to change it into active voice sentences by adjusting the tense of the main verb. Generally, the tense of the main verb is in the past tense.

So, determine the correct tense and use it in your verb to create an active sentence. This in turn delivers your writing in a more clear, strong, concise and urgent way.

Here’s an interesting video by mmmEnglish that explains what auxiliary verbs are.


c. Change the subject of the sentence

The main difference between active voice and passive voice is that one performs a verb and the other is a recipient of an action.

For example, in a passive sentence, “The novel was drafted by the writer”, the ‘novel’ is the subject which had been actioned by the writer.

To change it into an active voice, restructure the verb that is taking place (drafted by the writer) with the subject (novel), thus structuring “The writer drafted the novel”.

Conclusion

Once you have mastered the technique of identifying the voice and tonality, you will discover the ease with which your communication takes on different textures, depending upon the context at hand. While the active voice remains the direct form of communication and has more mass appeal, it is the passive voice that assumes the less biased and more objective tone.

Make sure to embellish your written expression with the right voice and give it the power and authority it deserves. We hope the tips and suggestions given above will go a long way in giving weightage to every sentence that you write and strike the right chord with readers.

When you work with Writers Per Hour, you’ll be happy to know that our professional team of writers know when to use active and passive voice correctly that works best for the type of paper.

If you’re running short of time or are not confident about your English writing skills, reach out to us and we’ll ensure you receive nothing short of professionally-written, high quality papers.

last edit at May 02 2022