Passive Voice: Becoming an Active Writer

I am often guilty of using the passive voice, and have a hard time differentiating between active and passive. In this post both forms of sentence structure will be researched and I hope to revisit past work to omit passivity. The University of Toronto has a very informative document on the passive voice which helped me with this assignment.

In the passive voice, the subject of the sentence is neither a do-er or a be-er, but is acted upon by some other agent or by something unnamed (Greenbaum p. 359). For example: 

passive: The telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876.

In the active voice the noun is “responsible for the action in the sentence comes first” (Corson p. 1). For example:

active: Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876.

There are instances when a passive voice is acceptable. For example, passive voice can be used when: you are talking about a general truth, you want to be vague on who is responsible, or you want to emphasize the person or thing acted on, or you are writing in a scientific genre reliant on passive voice (Corson p. 1).

Passive sentences can create vagueness in academic writing, which can easily cause confusion when referencing different authors (actors) and their actions. I am often a “wordy” writer, which can make works unnecessarily hard to follow. To remedy this, I will in the following paragraphs rewrite excerpts from past work omitting words such as “is,” “are,” “was,” and “were.”

1. From A Change in Perspective: From East to West

In this state of mind people exist but do not live. Until I moved out west I never truly felt alive. Freedom of exploration exists here, the possibility to pack a bag and disappear into the wilderness for a few days at a time, to climb things, and to meet new people from all over the world.

Non-existent culture lives in the town I grew up in. Due to racism within the communities, cultural exposure resulted in bad experiences generally outweighing the good experiences. Outside of my little suburban bubble lived a plethora of cultures in the Canadian melting pot. However, invisible borders divided cultures. Segregation and little education, left most children in my community ignorant to the many voices around them.

2. From Everyday Liars: Micro-Expression & Facial Recognition

We don’t live in a fairy tale world such as the story of Pinocchio. When he lies his nose grows, giving him away. Humans have far more subtle facial expressions, so subtle that we can rectify an unwanted expression within less than a second. “Micro expression” are our initial expression which we quickly hide, which shows our true feelings before we mask it with an opposite expression.

Advances in psychology and technology enable continuous lying. Visual media outlets such as television and web news lie to manipulate for mass consumption of hidden agendas. The news anchor, politician, religious leader, salesperson can now look millions of people in the eyes and lie directly to them.

3. From Titles: A First Glimpse into the Thoughts, Opinions and Writings of an Author

In academic writing, it can be difficult to be creative with titles. Author’s creativity in titles gives their article that much more of an edge.  Leora Audlander uses an interesting combination of mathematical symbols and punctuation to catch the audience’s attention in “Do Women’s + Feminist + Men’s + Lesbian and Gay + Queer Studies = Gender Studies?” Interestingly, references also add creativity. In “To See and Hear Like Ophelia, or How Not to Take Leave of One’s Senses: Representations of the Madwoman in Youtube Culture” by Monika Sosnowska she references Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” comparing a historically popular character, Ophelia, to today’s modern theatre “Youtube.” A colonic title allows for the interesting comparison.

I am a huge fan of the colonic title. To get a point across, more simple titles work, however a more complex title (like a colonic title) gives room for creativity and clarification. From the list below I tried to find a wide range of titles, however colonic titles stood out. In conclusion, I think content of the articles cause dependence on the title and colonic titles would not always be necessary. However, the difference between a good title and a great title has proven itself to be about creativity and clarity, which a colonic title further allows.

Reference List:

Greenbaum, G. (1993). University Grammar of English. Longman Group, 1-3.

Corson, T. (2016). Passive Voice: When to Use it and When to Avoid it. University College Writing Centre, University of Toronto,  1.



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