What are they?
- Active Voice: The subject of the sentence performs the action expressed by the verb.
- Passive Voice: An action is performed upon the subject of the sentence.
- Barbara bought eggs at the store.
- Julie won an award.
- The professor offered the students extra credit on the test.
- Eggs were bought by Barbara at the store.
- An award was won by Julie.
- Extra credit was offered on the test.
When to use active voice
- Use active voice in most academic writing (in most essays).
- Use active voice when you want to be clear.
Example: They told stories. (As opposed to the passive: Stories were told).
- When you want to be concise.
Example: Michela runs cross country. (As opposed to the passive: Cross country is run by Michela.)
Using active voice helps provide clarity in writing and cuts back on wordiness, which is particularly important when the sentence is already lengthy.
When to use passive voice
- When you want to put emphasis on the action. This is especially true when writing in the sciences.
Example: The petri dish was sterilized.
- When you want the subject and the focus to be consistent.
Example: The tutors were in the midst of an intense debate over Pepsi or Coke. The debate was finally settled by Aja.
- When you are strategically avoiding the subject.
Example: The students were accidentally misinformed.
- When you want to create an authoritative tone.
Example: Students are required to have meal plans.