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  1. #1
    Rich DeRuvo
    Guest

    Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    Whenever I read something about writing or hear someone talk about writing and publishing they always say that you should use the active voice instead of passive. I just don't understand why. This is an honest question I'm not just saying "why shouldn't I use it". Why is it looked at as "bad" writing and why would agents or publishers not like it. I personally like the sound of the passive voice and think it sounds better. Why is it so bad and will it really hinder chances of getting published if it is used?



  2. #2
    Joe Zeff
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    First of all, using the passive voice is wordy. It wastes words that you could use to move the story along. ("The message was put on the bulletin board by Jack." takes ten words, while "Jack put the message on the bulletin board." takes only eight. Of course, this is a very simple example.) Second, it reverses the way most people think about activity because instead of having the subject do something to the object, the object does something to the subject. Third, because of that, it's less clear. Looking at my simple-minded example, it's not clear who was acting until the end of the first sentence, while it's clear from the beginning in the second. (BTW, it's called "passive voice" because the subject of the sentence is passive, letting something happen to it instead of actively doing something.)

    There is, however, one place where the passive voice is not just perfectly acceptable, but unavoidable, and that's where the actor is either unknown or unimportant: "The message was placed on the bulletin board." In this case, it's hard to see how you could tell this without using the passive voice, but that's OK here, because it's the appropriate way to go.

    What most people call "passive voice" isn't; it's just passive writing. That is, telling the story so that things happen to people rather than people doing things. The best way of correcting this is a change in POV -- not in the sense of third person/first person but by changing the way you think of the action and describe it.

    I'm sure others here will chime in, and that some of them will disagree with part or all of what I've written, but that's OK. Different people look at passive writing differently, and between us we'll probably give you what you need.

  3. #3
    cara k
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    Imo, passive is boring, when inappropriately used. I have read passages which have been written in the passive voice, then transformed into the active voice; the difference is amazing. Here's why: passive voice doesn't put you in the driver's seat. You watch from a distance, to see what is being done to someone or something. With active voice, you're right there with the character; you're involved in the action. That's the most important difference for me. Here's an example:
    'The car was pushed down the street by Jack.'
    Or: 'Jack pushed the car down the street.'
    I'd rather picture Jack doing something, than a car doing nothing. Hope that helps.

    --Cara K

  4. #4
    the cat came back
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    The passive voice is not bad, it's just so frequently misused as to seem bad.

    It has a purpose, which is to convey passivity.

    Poor, little Billy was bullied by the other boys..."

    Don't just follow a "rule".

  5. #5
    Jena Grace
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    Or...the other boys bullied poor little Billy.

  6. #6
    the cat came back
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    It has a different effect. Both are valid. You would choose the one that creates the effect you want.

  7. #7
    cara k
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    One emphasizes Billy, the other, the boys, imo. It depends on where you want your focus.

  8. #8
    the cat came back
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    Also, the passive voice underlines his passivity, if appropriate.

  9. #9
    Gregory White
    Guest

    Re: Why is the passive voice "bad"?

    Rich, would YOU please give us your definition of the passive voice?

    I know that I posted this question a few years back but what I was actually TRYING to describe was 3rd-person-POV -- not passive voice.

    just wondering if that was what you really meant?

    G.

  10. #10
    stevenlabri τΏτ
    Guest

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