What is a passive voice?
I was able to research first, what it is not in order to dispel some myths:
Use of the passive voice constitutes a grammatical error.
Use of the passive voice is not a grammatical error. It’s a stylistic issue that pertains to clarity. There are times when using the passive voice can prevent a reader from understanding what you mean.
Any use of “to be” (in any form) constitutes the passive voice.
The passive voice entails more than just using a being verb. Using “to be” can weaken the impact of your writing, but it is occasionally necessary and does not by itself constitute the passive voice.
The passive voice always avoids the first person; if something is in first person (“I” or “we”) it’s also in the active voice.
On the contrary, you can very easily use the passive voice in the first person. Here’s an example: “I was hit by the car.”
You should never use the passive voice.
While the passive voice can weaken the clarity of your writing, there are times when the passive voice is OK and even preferable.
Once you know what to look for, passive constructions are easy to spot. Look for a form of “to be” (is, are, am , was, were, has been, have been, had been, will be, will have been, being) followed by a past participle. (The past participle is a form of the verb that typically, but not always, ends in “-ed.” Some exceptions to the “-ed” rule are words like “paid” (not “payed”) and “driven.” (not “drived”)
Here is an example of how to spot a passive sentence:
The mouse was caught by the cat.
If we ask ourselves whether there’s an action, the answer is yes: a mouse is being caught. If we ask what’s at the front of the sentence, the actor or the object of the action, it’s the object: mouse, unfortunately for it, got caught, and there it is at the front of the sentence. The thing that did the catching—the mouse—is at the end, after “by.” There’s a form of be (was) and a past participle (caught). This sentence is passive.
How to change passive constructions into active ones:
You can usually just switch the word order, making the actor and subject one by putting the actor up front:
The field has been flooded by the relentless rain.
The relentless rain flooded the large field
Why should we bother to weed out the passive voice?
Because passive sentences can leave your professor (or reader) guessing about what you are trying to say (and who is responsible for the action)
Both Lily and Ewan write want to write Santa a letter. He receives letters. (from who? Ewan and Lily?)
Because academic writing has a focus on research, too many passive sentences can cause confusion regarding who is talking:
A survey has been done to support this argument (by who? Me, the writer, or a researcher etc.)
Passive sentences can be used when you are lacking information:
Santa has been celebrated since the 1800’s (by who?)
Here is an example of one paragraph from one of the three assignments that I re-wrote taking out is,are,was.were:
Three Important Concepts or sues as Discussed By Newell
Kinds of Systems
It within this portion of the reading that Newell distinguishes between a variety of systems: simple, complicated and complex. He proceeds to break the systems into detail by using the example of road maps. By providing this visual, I was able to grasp and piece together not only this portion of the reading, but also a few pages that I had struggled to grasp a little earlier on. I found this to be very helpful. It was during this portion of the article that I began to really understand components, connectors and linear relationships. I could relate to the example of Geographic Information Systems which discussed how a large American city made up of maps, waterways, local transit, schools, public service offices, watershed’s and how each sub-system can greatly impact the larger complex system (Newell, W.H. 2001)
A Theory of interdciplinary studies. sues in Integrative Studies, 19, 1-25.