Grammar…Why Did it Have to be Grammar — Active vs Passive Voice

I hate grammar.  When it comes to grammar, I suck at it, though I would argue that I am better than most.  The biggest problem I have with it is English teachers.  The rules they teach us are not always rules but are actually stylized choices.  Such as starting a sentence with a conjunction, ending a sentence with a preposition, using a passive voice sentence.  All of these are not grammar mistakes, but a style choice for your writing.  Let us explore Active vs Passive voice.

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On the NaNoWriMo Forums, I posted my cheatsheet for how to do Active and Passive and how to recognize them.  I find most websites give you a long drawn out example, and I refer to the acronym KISS (Keep it Simple, Stupid):

ACTIVE VOICE

(Subject)(verb)(object)
Jordan kissed the dog

PASSIVE VOICE

(Object)(verb)(subject)
The dog was kissed by Jordan

If this is not a rule, then why is there so much emphasis on using Active voice over Passive voice?  The reason for using Active voice is that we understand who the subject of the sentence is and what they are doing, and Passive Voice can be confusing.  But do our readers really care?

The thing about grammar is that even the most unread person who doesn’t know grammar still has a sense for it subconsciously.  That when they read an article or story, they may find they dislike a story but don’t know why or may say that the way it sounds bothers them but can’t give a specific example.  It is likely because there are many grammar issues, and subconsciously they saw these issues and disliked them.  So the main reason that us writers focus so much on grammar is for our readers, to enjoy our stories on an intellectual and subconscious level.  Or for the simple amusement, if you are doing a pop-up book (hmmmm, a pop-up grammar book!?).

Given the importance of Active Voice, you can see why English teachers teach this as a hard fast rule.  But back to what I said at the beginning, that this is not a rule, but more of a suggestion.  There are times when you want to use Passive voice over Active.  Now I give credit to this section to larelmian on NaNoWriMo.

So when is it OK to use Passive voice.  There are many reasons to, but the two best reasons are as follows:

1. You want to place more emphasis on the object rather than the subject

ex. The dog was hit by the truck.

The truck is the subject and it hit the dog, but we want the reader to have more focus on the dog than the truck.  We may feel the dog is more important than the truck.

2. We don’t know who the subject is.

ex. The house was built in 1923.

We don’t know who built the house, and it doesn’t really matter.

As with any cheatsheet, it is simplifying a complex thought, and I use my cheatsheet for quick reference during the editing process.  Remember that 99% of your sentences will be Active Voice, but it is OK to once in awhile use Passive Voice.  Don’t feel compelled to change a sentence if it works for what you are trying to do, but be careful of doing it too much as it can leave your readers not enjoying your work.

Quick rule #1: Most Passive voice sentences use ‘was’ as a linking verb.  But not all sentences that use ‘was’ is a passive voice.

ex. The room was hot.

The room was hot, now it is cold.

Quick rule #2: Your noun is at the end of a sentence, even if it is not in the sentence. This is a Passive Voice.

ex. The house was built in 1923

We can still add in a noun, by the rabbit (The house was built in 1923 by the rabbit)

Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.

https://www.gofundme.com/help-madness-worldbuilding-continue

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