Please help me understand Passive Voice.

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TheTexan
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Please help me understand Passive Voice.

Post by TheTexan » Tue Jul 23, 2019 5:25 pm

I am 50 years old. I never learned about Passive Voice in school and had never even heard the term until about a year ago. Now, I hear it everywhere I go. I have done searches and read up about it, but I just can't seem to get a handle on precisely what it is or what to do about it, when it shows up in my writing, (Grammarly, ProWritingAid, Yoast, etc.). I have asked people about it, and they just say, "Don't worry about it. It is not that important". Okay, if it is not essential, why does every grammar checker I use keep showing flags for it?

I just need to understand what it is an what I can do about it?

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Joe
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Re: Please help me understand Passive Voice.

Post by Joe » Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:33 am

Passive Voice puts the emphasis on the (active) subject and makes it more important, eg:

1. Fred Bloggs has shot the President. (active)
2. The President has been shot by Fred Bloggs. (passive)

Normally people would use 2 because:
a) the President is what people want to know about (not Fred Bloggs)
b) It may not even be known who the shooter was, and you can just say "The President has been shot."

But presidential shootings are rare events, and most of the time we use the Active Voice. It is easier to understand and tells a better "story". That's why editing software flags your use of passive - it's probably not grammatically wrong but the simple-minded software has been told that Active Voice is stylistically the way to go.

Read my fuller Passive vs Active explanation.

https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/passive-voice.htm
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TheTexan
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Re: Please help me understand Passive Voice.

Post by TheTexan » Sat Jul 27, 2019 4:01 pm

Thanks for the reply. I have been on the road lately, so could not respond. I read your fuller explanation and think I kind of grasp the concept, but I am not sure if I agree with the whole IDEA itself of, "Passive vs Active" voice. It seems to me, at least in my thinking, that "Passive" (in this context), would be better referred to as -Eloquent-, and "Active" would be better referred to as -Crude-.

Why do I say this? Well, based upon your article, the purpose of this whole Active vs Passive voice thing, is to encourage people to write the way they normally speak in their daily conversations, or as you state, "uses fewer words - always a good thing." I realize this is your opinion, but I feel that your opinion about Few Words being a "Good thing," stems from a broader societal push to "Twiterize" human communication.

The truth is that the speech patterns people "Normally" communicate in are generally very crude. Now, I am sure that this last sentence would be considered "Passive." I could have written it as, "People normally talk crudely," which may have been more "Active" but not nearly as Eloquent sounding as the way I wrote the first sentence.

One of the reasons I love writing is because it allows me time to articulate my thoughts with eloquence and precision. I guess the reason that I am having such a hard time with this whole modern Active vs Passive voice push, is that I feel like it is trying to force me to write things in a manner that I consider to be lacking in eloquence.

If I have misunderstood your article, please correct me and explain to me what I a missing.

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