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Posts Tagged ‘Passive Voice’

Myth Busted: Passive Voice Is Not Significantly Harder To Read/Comprehend

August 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Are passive voice sentences really harder to read?  I hear this a lot as a reason to not use, or to at least use sparingly, the passive voice in writing.  So I decided to do a little test.  I took a series of sentences and wrote them in both the passive and active voice.  I then checked their readability statistics using Microsoft Word’s native tool for this.

Example 1: 

Active: “I mailed the letter.”

Flesch Reading Ease: 97

Flesch-Kincade Grade Level: 0.7 Read more…

The Yoke – Third Draft Completed

March 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Last night I picked up my short story titled “The Yoke” and gave it a fresh look. The editing process added roughly 500 words to the story and it stands at 6,534 total words with epilogue.

Current “readability” statistics are:

Passive voice sentences 1%
Flesch Reading Ease 85.7
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 3.8

Not sure if it still needs another edit or not. Will probably revisit it in a few weeks and decide.

Using Passive Voice Is Not Wrong

February 21, 2012 2 comments

Ok, time to vent on a pet peeve of mine; people who claim that using the passive voice in writing is wrong. It is not wrong. In fact there is nothing grammatically wrong with writing in the passive voice. Yet I just had another encounter with another author, unpublished of course, who swears that the passive voice is grammatically incorrect.

What is the passive voice? Passive voice is when the object of an action becomes the subject of a sentence. For example, saying “Why was the paper written on by you?” is perfectly grammatically correct but is passive in its voice. The paper is being acted on and also where one expects the subject to be. One would expect the question to be asked, “Why did you write on the paper.”

The two sentences however have the same meaning. But the first is slightly more advanced, potentially leading to someone with a lower reading level being confused by it. That’s ok though. And here is why. Because repetitive, predictable sentence structure in prose is boring. I have read enough of it. And a lot of it exists in so called “Best Sellers” that numb my brain with robotic English.

I am here however to say that it is ok to throw in a couple passive sentences as long as they are not overly clumsy. Of course, writing too much in the passive voice can indeed be awkward. If half of your sentences are passive people are not going to like that. But if you judiciously make 3% or so (that’s just 3 out of every 100) sentences in the passive voice, it breaks up the inevitable monotony of your structure. By being smart about when you use the passive voice, a reader probably will not even recognize that you have pulled such a sentence out of your bag of tricks.

Most successful fiction authors seem to have their passive voice sentences down to a very low number. But they do not eliminate them. Remember all this next time someone tells you such a sentence is “wrong”.