The proper usage of the active and passive voice has a fundamental distinction in English writing. It can be applied whether you are doing scientific or academic writing.
We have been taught that we should avoid the use of passive because it lengthens the sentences, hence making it ambiguous.
Research says that the applicability of these voices is allowed depending on the ideas you will be expressing and the conventions of disciplines in which you are writing. There are cases where content constructed as passive voice is best for the kind of writing compared to active voice.
Choosing between the two voices may vary depending on the style and what you are emphasizing in a sentence.
Active Vs. Passive Voice Writing
Way back in old times, the passive voice was used typically for scientific writing. Nowadays, journalists and editors have shifted this type of writing from passive to active voice. Questions arise from different writers that, what should the authors choose?
Will they completely abandon the passive voice writing style? Or is there a rendezvous between the two voices in which they can be used together in a single content?
The argument may be endless if the differences and the appropriate usage may not be discussed.
Thus, every writer must understand the difference between the two and how it must be used to achieve an excellent output.
Active and Passive Voice
These two types of voices are grammatical constructions that relay a specific emphasis on action. The sentence is written in a passive voice when the object is highlighted compared to the subject.
On the other hand, it is an active voice if the subject is highlighted or given the emphasis on the sentence. According to expert writers, the general option in using the passive voice as the tone in writing content is appropriate not only in scientific writing but to any writing form as well.
It takes a skill to master the art of writing and attain balance in two voices.
The American Psychological Association (APA) suggests that verb tenses and voices should be used carefully in specific writing. You should not hesitate to use the active voice specifically in discussing a particular subject.
Remember that it is very significant to express specific ideas and assessment data in an active voice. Taking into consideration if you are writing academically, the usage on both voices can be categorized based on what part of the writing you’ll use it.
Say, for example, it is recommended to use the passive voice on describing a process and study results, which is pretty objective in nature. Whereas, active voice is particularly applicable to explain the actions in that writing.
This topic is long debated between these voices and their application. But if you see it in a larger picture, these can be applied individually depending on the type of writings. These can also be both used to single writing.
It is a fact that active voice is identified as a shorter and more transparent way of communicating ideas, whereas passive voice is lengthier. But you cannot undermine the use of passive voice, which is very vital when elaborating on the action of the subject.
A writer should make his own decision about what is preferable to use since it has both positive and negative implications. It just depends on what is the focus on every sentence. What matters most is the result of arriving into the idea of communicating what you want to relay.
The message must be clear, and the purpose of what is written must be conveyed.
Noticeable factors in using active and passive voice:
Length of sentences
We all know that active voice is relatively shorter than passive voice, in terms of its word composition. It is the fact that it can’t be argued. Others may see it irrelevant, but this can be undoubtedly important to those who love to write straight to the point and for those who want to write with another detailed discussion.
If you are into descriptive writing where you must include in your content the details, settings, mood, feel, environment, colors, actions, etc. of your subject, then, passive voice can be the very applicable style for you.
But if you want to write memos and other commanding contents, then an active voice applies to you, as you need to be precise and direct as possible. Both are significant, but you must choose which applies to your setup.
One negative implication of using passive voice is that writers may have the option to disclose or not to disclose the modifiers or the doers of the action.
The person who does the action frequently is not included in the sentences, which makes it unclear or vague who made a move.
It is imperative to every writer to consider as it may entail to the reader a grammatical inaccurate and can directly imply to scientifically uncertain if you are into scientific writings.
On the other hand, usage of active voice in sentences makes a clear view of who did the action since it is written in the first part of the sentence. The readers may have a clear picture and thus eliminate the uncertainty of the subject.
Subject presence results either personal or impersonal
Using passive voice, the writer can omit the presence of the subject in a sentence. It results in an impersonal way of conveying a message since the doer is ambiguous.
When the doer of the subject is not stated on the given fact, it makes it less credible. Whereas using active voice makes the sentence personal since the one who did the action is indicated.
A passive voice conveys an impersonal tone to the reader, and it is perceived to be more objective and formal. Scientific writing in the early days advised to strictly not use active voice. The usage of first-person in references in writing such as I, we, my and our, is prohibited.
Although it is wordy and difficult to understand, some authors seem to find a passive voice to be attractive and formal to use.
Undermining the value of process
The standard approach when passive voice is used is that it sometimes undermines the process of what the subject is undertaking.
The intricate process has placed less value compared to the subject.
If you are looking forward to making a clear and direct statement, then an active voice is the best option to achieve your desired results. It doesn’t add confusion or ambiguous characters in the sentence. It discloses the doer of the action explicitly.
When writing a journal, it is preferred to use in the construction of words in an active voice as the readers find it easy to comprehend and understand.
Although passive voice can confuse since it uses many words and thus obscures the agent of action. But if it is used correctly, it can generate passion and stimulation like using active voice. A passive voice provides reasonable structural control and objective-based writing.
It encourages precision and probity. This type of passive voice eliminates bias as it can hide who did it or how many are involved in the activity. A passive voice completes control in structuring the sentences depending on the writer.
Example of active and passive voice
Active voice solely refers to the doer of the action in a given sentence. You might want to take a look and see the difference.
Example: The scholars carefully studied evolution. (Active voice)
Here you will notice that the doer of the action has been highlighted. (in this case “the scholars”)
On the other hand, passive voice emphasizes the action rather than the actor. Other times, the actors are omitted in the sentence.
Example: Careful studies were conducted about evolution. (Passive voice)
In this example, you can see that “the scholars” who studied the matter has been omitted. This type of voice simply entails that either the reader had already known who did the study or the reader doesn’t necessarily need to know who did the research.
The emphasis and what matters is the action.
Converting from passive to active voice
Remember that passive voice always emphasizes the object who receives the action of the doer. Let’s take a look at this example and try to reconstruct the sentence from passive to active voice.
Example: The preliminary exams were graded by the teacher. (Passive voice)
To revise the sentence into an active voice, we must evaluate and answer the questions below.
1. What is the action present in the sentence? (Answer: graded)
2. What is the doer of the action? (Answer: the teacher)
So, when you reconstruct the sentence into an active voice, it looks like this.
Example: The teacher graded the preliminary exams. (Active voice)
Note that you can apply the same principle when reconstructing an existing active voice sentence into a passive voice. You just need to locate within the text, which is the doer of the action and the action itself.
You need not worry. It can be easily identified once you are doing it.
The type of voice to use in writing content depends on the kind of writing and the preference of the writer. Active and passive voice can be applied individually if you prefer, or can also be combined in a single content.
Remember that it must be used strategically. The message you want to relay must be conveyed appropriately. If the intention of that particular part in your writing intends to highlight the subject, then you should use an active voice.
If you want to highlight the action, then use the passive voice. Both are significant, and not one is superior to the other. You must know the right application in handling these types of voices.
There is no absolute rule for the usage, but the guidelines written above must be your basis in writing the best content for your reader.
Overall, what matters most is if the message you want to convey is relayed correctly to your audience or reader.
Clarity is more important than complexity.