Could you explain the passive voice to me?”J.
Let’s make this short and sweet.
Passive: I was pulled over by a cop
Active: A cop pulled me over.
In an active sentence the subject acts; in a passive sentence the subject is being acted upon.
Why do people advise against using passive voice.
The beach was battered by angry waves. The houses were buffeted by the wind. The shutters were pulled by the storm, straining to stay closed. The sky was filled with dark clouds.
Angry waves battered the beach. Wind buffeted the houses. The storm pulled at the shutters that strained to stay closed. Dark clouds filled the sky.
The second example is clearer, faster, and reads better.
When should you use passive voice?
First, when you have to present necessary information, but you want to keep the focus on the subject of the sentence.
The house was built by Mr. White in 1990. Tall, contemporary, and pure white, it perched among the lilacs and myrtles, a collection of right angles and rectangular boxes that somehow managed to look weightless.
Mr. White built the house in 1990. Tall, contemporary, and pure white, it perched among the lilacs and myrtles, a collection of right angles and rectangular boxes that somehow managed to look weightless.
In the first example, the focus is on the house. It’s the house that’s important. In the second example, the focus is on Mr. White. We’re waiting to hear more about him rather than the house.
Second, when you want to present a feeling of being acted upon, of being helpless or inconsequential, where who performed the action becomes less important than the action itself.
I was bound, gagged, and thrown into a cell.
The small boat was shattered to pieces.
Jennifer was fired.
Using passive voice is often necessary and appropriate. Remember, if the story needs it, do it, and don’t worry so much about the “right” way.