Weekly Writing Prompts: #19
February 11, 2014
It’s a widely accepted fact that active voice is better than passive, because it’s direct and easy to read. Active voice has the subject acting upon something, while passive voice has the subject being acted upon. A subtle difference, but one that matters when it comes to coherency, quality, and word count. Here are some examples:
We made a cake.
Johnny ate the entire cake.
After tea, we cleaned up the kitchen.
The cake was made by us.
The entire cake was eaten by Johnny.
The kitchen was cleaned up after tea.
These sentences may sound alright, but they’re clearly different. The active sentences are stronger and clearer, with the subjects (‘we’ and ‘Johnny’) acting upon things, rather than the inanimate subjects (‘the cake’ and ‘the kitchen’) doing the acting.
Once you think you’ve got that down, have a go at our writing prompt to test your writing skills.
Write a passage describing a character cooking dinner, and write it entirely in passive voice. This may feel weird and wrong while you’re writing (because active voice is more natural) but be conscious of your sentence structure and get a paragraph or two out.
Now re-write your passage sentence by sentence, only write in active voice this time. Your two passages will say exactly the same thing, but their effects will be vastly different.
This is a great prompt to train yourself into being conscious of your sentences, and the syntax that you use to structure them. Knowing the difference between active and passive (and when to use them appropriately) will strengthen your writing overall, and it’s a nice technique to have under your belt.
Don’t forget to check out our other writing prompts for even more challenging exercises. Happy writing!