Leave the Passive in the Past

In this post, I’m going to talk a little about passive and active voice.

What exactly is passive voice? Simply put, passive voice occurs when the subject performing the action is not the focus of the sentence. Typically, you can identify passive voice with the following formula:

“to be” words + past participle = passive voice

What are “to be” words?

Is, are, am, was, were, has/have/had been, will be, will have been, being.

What is a past participle?

A form of a verb that typically (not always) ends in -ed.

Example of passive voice:

The city was destroyed by the explosion.

Active voice:

The explosion destroyed the city.

Another example of passive voice:

Burning meteors were streaking across the sky.


Burning meteors streaked across the sky.

So, how did I fix those sentences?

First thing you need to do is determine what the subject is. In the first example “The city was destroyed by the explosion”, “explosion” is the subject performing the action. Move the subject to the front of the sentence. “The city was destroyed by the explosion” becomes “The explosion the city was destroyed”.

Obviously, this makes no sense, so what now? Next, identify the verb. The verb in this sentence is “was destroyed”. Move those words to follow the subject. Now, we have “The explosion was destroyed the city”. Closer, but still not quite right.

Finally, remove the “being” verbs. In this example, “was” is the verb in question. This leaves us with, “The explosion destroyed the city.” Tada!

Not all passive writing is bad or unnecessary. In fact, sometimes you need passive voice. Keep in mind that a little passive voice most likely is not going to ruin your story. What really matters is the content of that story and, as always…

Keep writing!

Allison M

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