You may have heard that you should write in the active voice and avoid passive sentences, but do you know what that means? If not, these answers to some frequently asked questions on the subject (pun intended) might help straighten it out for you.
What is active voice?
When a sentence is in active voice, the subject of the sentence is the one doing the work of the verb. Perhaps the simplest example of this would be, "I love you." In this sentence the person speaking, the, "I," is the one doing the loving.
In order to change "I love you," into a passive sentence and make "you" the focus of the sentence, it isn't enough just to change the word order. That would give us, "You love I (or me.)" This changes the meaning as well. Now "you" is the one doing the loving. In order to make "you" the focus of the sentence and the recipient of the love, we would have to say, "You are loved by me."
Why is active voice better than passive voice?
As the sentence, "You are loved by me," shows, the passive voice is often awkward, even in simple sentences. Hardly surprising then that as a sentence becomes more complex, introducing passive voice makes it more likely your reader will struggle to understand. Or, to put that in the passive voice, "As its complexity is increased, the likelihood of your sentence being understood is decreased." If your aim is clear and concise writing, stick to the active voice as much as possible.
When shouldn't I use active voice?
There are, of course, times when the use of passive voice is actually simpler and more direct than the active voice. There are also times when it is the only option available. There are three instances when you should use the passive voice:
If none of these three special cases fits, then you should use the active voice.