Both active and passive verbs are used in all kinds of writing. Both are correct grammatically. But too many passive verbs can make the writing weak and unemotional.
Here’s an example.
I was a hard worker. Every morning was the same routine. There were chickens to feed, dishes to wash, clothes to iron, food to prepare. I wasn’t a complainer. And the field hands were grateful. They were always nodding and smiling when they came in for lunch. I was sure to lay down the rules and they were sure to follow them. But sometimes I wished there was at least one person to say something special. Just a little note to show I was important.
Note all the instances of was and were. A nice little story but not very impactful.
I worked hard. Every morning I fed the chickens, washed the dishes, ironed the clothes, prepared the food. Without complaint. I could see the field hands’ gratitude. They always nodded and smiled when they came in for lunch because I lay down the rules and they followed them. But sometimes I wished at least one person would say something special. Just a little note to show my importance.
This is a bit stronger. All the passive verbs have changed to active verbs.
Active with emotion
I slaved every morning. Fed the chickens, washed the dishes, ironed the clothes, prepared the food. All without any complaint. And the field hands appreciated my work. They always nodded and smiled when they came in for lunch because I lay down the rules and they followed them. But sometimes I wished for one person, just one, to say something special. Even just a word or two. Then I would feel my worth.
Even stronger here. The active verbs are strengthened to make an impression on the reader. Worked becomes slaved. Could see gratitude turns into appreciated. And feel my worth is added at the end.
Passive voice will creep into your writing and that’s okay. It has a place. But the more you choose active verbs, and strong active verbs, the more the reader feels what you write.
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