The use of passive voice is often critiqued as bad writing style, which is incorrect. Though, it should be used sparingly, it shouldn’t be eliminated totally because sometimes it is essential in emphasizing details.
Passive voice is used when the subject of a sentence is the recipient of a verb. Most times, the receiver is of little or no importance to the sentence, so, why should it overshadow the subject acting? Well, this skepticism is true because the inappropriate use makes your writing vague and boring, by emphasizing things of less importance.
Notwithstanding, a passive voice can function better than an active voice in some sentences, when used the right way. Here are some ways to use the passive voice aptly.
- To report crimes with an alleged or unknown culprit: In some criminal cases, the perpetrator of the crime is unknown; therefore the focus should not be on an unknown person, but on whom or what was affected (the recipient of the action).
My neighbor was murdered last night.
The subject (neighbor) is the receiver of the action, and the emphasis is on it.
- For scientific situations: When performing a scientific experiment the emphasis is not placed on the scientist experimenting, but on what the experiment entails. So, the subject matter is the things or person receiving the action.
The Laboratory rat was used to test the efficiency of the drug. (Passive)
The scientist used the Laboratory rat to test the efficiency of the drug. (Active)
In the two sentences, how relevant is the scientist in the active sentence construction above? The use of passive voice effectively passes the message and draws attention to what is important; the Laboratory rat.
- To emphasize the action, not the doer: In a situation where the “action” is more relevant than the initiator, a passive voice can be used.
She was sworn in yesterday as the Director of, The World Trade Organization.
Who was performing the swearing-in was irrelevant because the emphasis is on the action, and the message is fully understood.
- To shift the blame on nobody: You might be wondering how this is possible, well, it is. As a writer, you can use passive voice to exonerate. You can make a character get away with a crime by detaching him from the incident or action.
The crime was committed yesterday.
The question posed here is; who committed the crime? Or who was involved? This statement can’t be traced to a particular person or thing. It could be who you are thinking or not. You create suspense and leave your readers to ponder.
You can easily identify a passive sentence with the presence of “to be verbs”. They include verb forms like was, were, are, etc. You can seldom write without using these verbs, howbeit, it should be used daintily or as stated in the above exceptions. To avoid errors in your writing, it is important to thoroughly proofread your work and remove any misuse of the passive voice, but if you can’t go through that process, we have a team of professional editors who can help. Contact us today at Sabi Writers.