Writers are generally encouraged to avoid the passive voice because … well, it’s passive. Take sentences like:
- My car was stolen yesterday.
- The meeting was called off.
- The window was broken by Barry.
They’re all a bit flat (passive). Now consider some more active alternatives:
- Yesterday, someone stole my car.
- They called off the meeting.
- Barry broke the window.
I won’t get into the ins and out of the passive voice, (this article summarises it very nicely) but I will pass along a tip from the legendary copy editor Benjamin Dreyer:
“If you can append ‘by zombies’ to the end of a sentence, you’ve indeed written a sentence in the passive voice.”
Okay, if there’s already a ‘by’ on the end of the sentence you’ll need to replace it with ‘zombies’, but whether it was them or Barry who broke that window, it’s still passive.
Illustration credit: vecteezy.com