Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - March

I’m skipping the introduction this month. If you’re curious about previous grammar columns please check out the blog archives.

The introduction is being skipped this month. The blog archives can be checked for previous grammar columns.


You’ve probably just done a double take. The first two paragraphs are similar. Other than being repetitious, can you pick out which of the two paragraphs above contains active voice? Which one moves you right along? Which one has you yawning?

This month we’re investigating the difference between active voice and passive voice. It’s common to hear the rule ‘avoid passive voice.’ If you’re a writer, it’s a good rule to follow if you want to keep your reader engaged. There are times, however, when passive voice is fine. Really. Read on.

Active voice is dynamic and the ‘doer’ of the action is obvious. Passive voice is, well, laid back and can leave questions in the reader’s mind as to who is doing what. The time to use passive voice is when you want to emphasize results and not necessarily who achieved those results.

Check out the following examples and see what you think (passive is listed first).

The ball was kicked.
Jim kicked the soccer ball.

The bus was driven by Mr. Smith.
Mr. Smith drove the empty bus into a house.

The project was managed effectively.
Ted and his team brought the project in under budget and ahead of schedule.

The computer was repaired.
I fixed my computer.


The following are examples of where you may find passive voice to be the preferred voice:

My advice was followed.
My students followed my advice.

The water was heated to 195 degrees.
Tom heated the water to 195 degrees.

The grocery store was robbed.
Unknown persons robbed the grocery store.

The overall rule for choosing active or passive is to use what best says what you mean.


This month’s recommended grammar book is: The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus.


I like finding ways to remember the ‘rules’ and hope you can find something helpful. It’s my hope the monthly grammar techniques and usage examples will make grammar a lot less frightening and potentially enjoyable (can you imagine?) for you.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or email me!

(originally published in The TWC Spotlight for February,2009)

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